When Mimi’s story came out several years ago, senior students in R led me to believe that the online activity was all masterminded by one disgruntled Irish student with the ability to mobilise others to her cause. The methods of some who have a clear agenda to ‘bring him down’ are indeed cyber-bullying tactics, and the anger behind the campaign just makes any truth that may be in it easy to dismiss.
But this ‘big reveal’ email was communication from within the sangha to the sangha, this simple ‘telling it like it is’, is not an angry campaign aimed at bringing anyone down. It is a clear statement that reveals the teacher’s abusive behaviour and its damaging results. It is a request for SR to see his abusive behaviour, to admit that it caused harm, to fully regret his action and to never repeat such behaviour again.
This is Vajrayana in action. A result of all the 100 syllable mantras the Rigpa sangha has been accumulating for SR’s health. It is the dirt coming out. As it must for SR’s karma to be purified so that he can live long. The only thing that can purify this karma is the Four Powers of Purification: Confession. Regret. Reparation; and a vow never to repeat the negative action.
The courageous ‘gang of 8’ is not the cause of the negative karma, SR’s actions are. The gang of 8 could be seen as emanations of Vajrasattva, agents of purification sent by Ekazati to defend the Dzogchen teachings. Why not? Many positive things have come from their actions already. Continue reading “Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 3”
Why didn’t I see the truth that students were hurting? Because I saw the teacher in person only once a year, and only during a teaching, and because senior students told me those close to him had asked for this ‘special training’, and because I didn’t see anything that clearly stepped over a line: I didn’t see him punching someone hard, several times, in obvious anger while telling them they were useless, as one member of the Australian team recently told me that he observed in the last tour.
Surely, I thought, if they don’t see it as a problem, then who am I to judge? But clearly it was, or became, a problem for some, so much so that they eventually came to see it as abuse. And what happened to them is a great deal more damaging than anything I saw. And they struggled for years before they found a way to get out. Only when reading about trauma bonding and brainwashing techniques did I realise just how badly they had been trapped in a cycle of abuse that was enabled by a system of beliefs that supported it as not only acceptable, but also normal. A belief system adhered to so blindly by those around this teacher that those who recognised the abuse for what it was had no support, but were made to feel that their perception was not pure enough and their devotion was not strong enough. They were made to feel that it was their fault! Continue reading “Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 2”
The love in the room is palpable. It flows directly from the man on the dais at the front into my heart, and into the heart of the other 300 people sharing this experience. He swivels on his chair and scans the room, looking at each of the students in turn. He does not rush. He holds us all with his wisdom mind. He looks at me and our minds connect. Heart-mind in one. Transformative power flows through him from his masters and from their masters before them. He is a light bulb plugged into the socket of devotion, and the blessings of the lineage flow through him into me. He is all the lineage masters in one. He is Guru Rinpoche. He is also a mirror. He mirrors and evokes my own wisdom mind. I recognise it and smile. His eyes twinkle and the corner of his mouth rises just slightly, then he turns to the next person. I remain in spacious awareness.
In that moment, I hear and see all and every single sound and sight in its own place all at once, in one glance—panoramic awareness—and I hold it all in my heart, aware of every interconnection that brings it all into being and keeps it always changing. The world is luminous, alive with being. Like my lama, my Vajra brothers and sisters are perfect in their primordial nature. This is without a shred of doubt the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect teacher, the perfect teaching and the perfect students. It still is. It always is. Continue reading “Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 1”
The foundation of the Buddhist spiritual path is refuge. It’s also the start of any Vajrayana practice, and so how we relate to and experience refuge is very important. If we see our refuge as a human being, that refuge is fallible; such a refuge will die, and before then they may disappoint us, may turn out not to be the reliable being we thought they were. Sound familiar?
But refuge in Buddhadharma is supposed to be an infallible refuge. It’s supposed to be a refuge that is always there and always reliable. But it’s very easy, especially when a teacher encourages you to see him as the object of refuge—‘Do you know who I really am?’—to make your refuge the human teacher, so when your faith in the human is shattered, your refuge crumbles as well, and it brings your whole practice down with it.
But that won’t happen if you understand that ultimately your refuge is not and never was a human being that can fail you. Even on the surface level, the lama is only one small part of the whole picture. Let’s look at the practice itself:
A small group of Australian students is attempting to get this letter, which expresses their concerns, requests, and constructive suggestions, to SL. 22 more student voices from the What Now? Facebook Group agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter.
This group of 13 Australian Dz and Ng mandala students had 2 weeks warning of the contents of the recent email from long term students on the issue of abuse in our sangha. We have met twice in this period to process our mutual pain and concerns, and to begin a dialogue on what this means for the sangha.
In the first meeting we shared feelings of shock, confusion, anger, betrayal of trust, bitter disappointment and sadness. All stated vehemently their continuing faith in the teachings, love for R, and gratitude for all he has done for us, but made a clear distinction between the teacher and the behaviour. We feel strongly that no one is above the law.
What follows are notes from the second meeting of the points that we all agreed on. As a small group, we were able to mobilise quickly, and we hope that the results of our discussion will help in the process of healing for all concerned: Continue reading “Feedback and Constructive Suggestions from a Group of Concerned Students”
The letter was written to Sogyal Lakar. A copy of the letter was shared with longterm Rigpa students, and some senior Tibetan Buddhist lamas. We have not shared it publicly or with the media. Sharing the letter publicly is a violation of the wishes of the signers.
Feeling confused or conflicted?
You may have received teachings that tell you to see the teacher as a Buddha and all his actions as skillful means, enlightened activity, or crazy wisdom. On the other hand, you may have experienced, observed, or heard about behaviors on the teacher’s part that seem outrageous and perhaps, even unethical. Is it crazy wisdom? Is it abuse? Should you stay silent? Should you question? Should you speak out?
These kinds of questions can silently torment a student for months and even years. The deep appreciation you feel for all that you’ve received — teachings that may have brought meaning to your life in inexpressible ways — pulls you in one direction. The questionable behavior pulls you in another. And fear of repercussions, like criticism, exile from your community or the threat of vajra hell, can keep you paralyzed.
Let’s look to the Dalai Lama for guidance on how to approach what appears to be unethical behavior by a teacher. The Dalai Lama gave very clear instructions about this at the 1993 Western Buddhist Teachers Conference. Continue reading “Confused or Conflicted? What the Dalai Lama Says About Teachers and Unethical Behavior”
Concerned about a certain letter you read recently?
Here is where you can share your concerns, your personal experience, your beliefs, and your support for those who have so bravely come forward and shared their testimonies. Even if you disagree with their perception, please honour how painful their experiences have been and how difficult it is for them to break the silence. Honour their truth.
On hearing this for the first time, I experienced shock, anger, betrayal, bitter disappointment and finally sadness, so please support your dharma brothers and sisters as you pass through whatever this situation raises for you. You may read words written from intense emotional states, and that’s fine. Honour them, but don’t get caught up in them. Let them come, and let them go. Continue reading “What the hell are we going to do now?”