Sadness, yes, but …

Guest post by Sel Verhoeven . Thanks Sel for your honesty.

I felt sadness when I heard the news that Sogyal Rinpoche has passed away. Sadness, because I knew and loved him for almost thirty years. At times he helped me tremendously, with just a few personal words, in difficult periods of my life. Even after the abuse came out, I still cared for him, in the way that you would still care for a brother or child who has really done wrong. You can’t just stop caring if you have a deep connection with someone. I also felt sadness because the hope evaporated that he would ever confess his wrongdoings. As long as he was alive there was a chance that he would come to understand what he had done and make amends. The chances of that happening might have been microscopically small, but nevertheless, they were there and now they are gone.

I also felt anger that he had gone without making amends. What a mess he has left behind. A split sangha, a large group of students who have turned away from Buddhism altogether. He could, and should have prevented this by taking responsibility for his actions and thus saving the face of Buddhism. Instead, he allowed his students to carry on with the fairy-tale of crazy wisdom and a teacher whose every action is beneficial to his students, even if it’s abusive and they are left in shambles. At the same time I felt gratitude for the fact that he brought the dharma into my life. I will never cease to be grateful for that. He has brought many people in contact with the dharma and has helped many, that is his merit. All in all, a sense of soft sadness prevailed, and I was ready to do practise for him and everyone else who suffered in this samsara we’re all stuck in.

Then I saw the ‘homage’ page that is now up on https://sogyalrinpoche.org/paying-homage-to-sogyal-rinpoche, and got infuriated. Out the window went the soft sad inspired-to-practise mood. What bad taste of Rigpa to display these homages of a man who has seriously harmed students who trusted him and relied upon him. And what delusion or willingness to lie these teachers have when I’m sure they know there has been an independent investigation, instigated by Rigpa themselves, that has confirmed the abuse!

At the same time I received the messages that Rigpa sent out to their students, saying, amongst other practice advice: ‘Rinpoche is resting in tukdam meditation and all signs of a great practitioner are present. Now is the time to deeply and profoundly unite your mind, to merge your mind with Rinpoche’s wisdom mind. This is the most powerful time to do so. This is the crowning moment.’  And I got really worried, thinking it definitely would not be a good idea to be infuriated at such an important moment! It took me a while to see through it. Even with death they manage to manipulate us. To install fear in us of somehow missing out on something, or not doing the right thing. The same tactics they had used all along.

And making use of the proverb ‘do not speak ill of the dead’, they saw their chance to blatantly praise Sogyal Rinpoche, as in the old days. The last 2 years Rigpa kept it down a bit. But now, by ways of these other teachers paying homage, they could have a go at it again. And so they show their true face at last. Withstanding all the talk of a new Rigpa, with protocols, a code of conduct, and a place for students with their own opinions, in the end they worship their teacher and willingly close their eyes to the truth.

It almost feels like they don’t allow space to really mourn. For that, you need to see and remember a person warts and all, not some deified version of them. You need to embrace the uncomfortable truth that a person can be both good and bad at the same time.

In the end, I did the only thing I could do. I found the one picture of him I didn’t throw out, lit two candles, and just sat with it all wishing him, his victims, his disappointed students, his devotees and everyone else who is suffering, well.

Sel Verhoeven

Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche

As most of you probably know, the book about Sogyal written by Mary Finnigan and Rob Hogendoorn is available now .
The book description follows:

This book is the story of how a penniless Tibetan refugee with fierce ambition managed to establish himself in the West as a renowned Buddhist lama and hoodwink thousands of people, including show business luminaries, tycoons and politicians, for more than 30 years. 

Sogyal Lakar left his birthplace in eastern Tibet aged eight when his family fled the Chinese invasion to seek refuge in India. Arriving in England in the early 1970s, he brought with him traditional ideas and attitudes rooted in a culture whose spiritual sophisticated was coupled with near-feudal social norms. 

His transition was spectacularly successful. Sogyal Rinpoche, as he became known, was a charismatic multi-millionaire, credited as the author of a best-selling book. He starred in a Hollywood movie and his Rigpa Fellowship attracted followers across the globe. At the peak of his fame he was the most powerful and best-known Tibetan holy man after the Dalai Lama. 

But, as revealed here, it turns out that Sogyal was a charlatan who was never trained as a lama. He stands accused of financial and sexual misconduct, physical violence and fabricated credentials. Now seriously ill, he is a fugitive rumoured to be in Thailand beyond the reach of police and civil investigations. 

This book does not sensationalise the perverse behaviour that caused profound suffering to scores of devotees. Based on interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, together with detailed research and first-hand experience, it echoes the feminist perspective highlighted by the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. It is also a story about the culture clash that occurs when the misogyny of old Tibet is greeted with naïve acceptance and adulation by spiritual seekers in the West.

If you’ve read it already, please let us know what you think.

The Sakyadhita Conference 2019: Inspiring, Challenging & Fruitful.

I’d never heard of the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women until Brisbane Buddhist Chaplain Jack Wicks contacted me last year and asked me to present a paper on the fallout from Sogyal’s abuse at the Sakyadhita conference 2019 in the Blue Mountains, Australia in June. I asked Damcho if she’d help out with the project and she said, ‘Yes.’ Getting the funds to pay the costs could have been a stumbling block, but 48 wonderful people contributed to our Go Fund Me Campaign to cover our conference fees and some of our costs. On Monday the 24th of June, Damcho, Jack and I delivered our paper to around 800 people.

The talk was very well received, the quality of the listening was interested and supportive. We had many people coming up and speaking to us afterwards to express how grateful they were that we were talking about the issue of abuse in Buddhism. They particularly appreciated Damcho speaking publicly of her experience.

For me it came at a great time because I’ve finished my book Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism, which speaks of my journey over the last couple of years, and this was like a very brief summary of the book’s subject matter. I felt lighter after the paper, as if I’d shed a load I’d been carrying.

Click here to listen to the audio.

Inspiring

The venue
The view
Our comfortable room.
The main room.
Women practitioners from all Buddhist countries.

As you can see, I met many wonderful people. It was truly wonderful to be in such a kind, supportive atmosphere. It made me realise that Buddhism is so much more than the few twisted teachers and communities.

What linked us all, these groups of nuns and lay women from all over Asia, Australia and even some from Europe and Israel, is our gender, and that relationship cut across sectarian boundaries. All were treated with respect. All equal. You could feel it in the atmosphere.

The talks were all printed into a booklet so I can read the ones I missed, but what struck me about the papers is the wealth of good works being done by Buddhist women, particularly in Asia, and the strong, inspiring woman behind them. The conference was very well organised, and a very special experience. How else would I ever make such friends? Some I intend to see again. Others will become Facebook friends.

Workshops were many and varied. I did two others on the abuse issue in order to network and so that our workshop could follow up on anything that came out of the others. The two nuns seated in the next photo delivered a paper before us on sexual abuse in nunneries in Bhutan and India, and the two talks together had quite an impact. It made it quite clear that abuse is a major issue in the religion, particularly for women, and particularly in Tibetan Buddhism, not just in the West, but also in the East where both nuns and monks are lax with their vows. Many apparently don’t even know what their vows are, whereas in other forms of Buddhism the monks and nuns recite their long list of vows at least once a month.

Strong inspiring women teachers

Thubten Chodreon, Tenzin Pamo, Joan Halifax, and Pema Khandro were the teachers I knew that were there. None of them had entourages, and all were all accessible. They ate with the rest of us, sat in the same seats, and it wasn’t hard to find a moment to speak with them. Many said to me that they felt that women teachers were the way forward for Buddhism. If you’re looking for a Buddhist teacher, I don’t think you’d go wrong with these women.

I spoke with Tenzin Palmo, and in our brief exchange, she embodied the genuine principle of the teacher in vajrayana, skilfully and spontaneously cutting through a habitual pattern of mine at the same time as setting me free. It heartened me that there are such teachers around. I also heard of a lineage of married monogamous Tibetan Lamas who didn’t screw around with their students. I found that hopeful. Not that I want another teacher – I don’t – but others do.

Tenzin Palmo

Challenging

It was a full-on six days, and the topic of Sogyal’s abuse was the main topic of conversation for us because people naturally wanted to talk about it. That meant re-living it again to some extent, but Damcho took it in her stride. I found her strength and grace also an inspiration.

I passed a couple of old Rigpa friends who looked at me as if they’d smelled dog poo – despite me smiling and saying, ‘Oh how lovely to see you,’ to one I’d known quite well. I found that hurtful until, with the help of a friend, I realised that it wasn’t personal. My friend helped me to see that I was a symbol of a point of view they didn’t want to accept and accepting me would mean accepting my viewpoint to some degree, something they didn’t want to do. Oh well. That’s how it is.

I managed to thank Tenzin Palmo for her support, and I gave her a paperback copy of my book Fallout. We had a brief exchange where she basically told me I didn’t need a teacher anymore. Her words: ‘You’re an adult, you don’t need a mummy or a daddy to tell you what to do anymore.’ I might tell you the whole story sometime, but I was amused to realise that Sogyal would never have told that to any of his students! She, Thubten Chodron, Joan Halifax and Pema Khandro were all so accessible, none of this setting themselves apart business. I thought them models of how teachers should be with their students.

I didn’t manage to get to a dharma talk, though. This ex-Buddhist has had enough of that! I did plan to listen to Tenzin Palmo, but I had a migraine. Luckily, a wonderful woman took care of me by booking me a massage and providing stick-on heat packs for my shoulders. Her care, attending to my needs without being asked, was compassion in action, and I felt very nurtured.

Fruitful

Damcho, Jack, Tenzin, Karma and me.

To top off the experience, we had a fruitful outcome. The nun on the right in this photo, Ven. Dr. Karma Tashi Choedron pulled together a group of talented women who wanted to do something about the abuse in Buddhism issue, and from her networking came the Alliance for Buddhist Ethics. It’s purpose is to eliminate abuse from Buddhism. A big task, yes, but it’s a start. You’ll hear more about this as time passes, but for now you can show your support by signing up to the mailing list.

Click here to sign up to the Alliance for Buddhist Ethics mailing list.

Here’s some video snippets from the conference including the announcement of the Alliance for Buddhist Ethics and some comments from Jack, Damcho and me.

Yes, I’m not a ‘Buddhist’ anymore in that I’m not aligned with any part of the religion (or any other) but I still care about the issue of abuse in Buddhism. I have great respect for the vajrayana, and I’d like to see it free from corruption, feudalism and the parts that aren’t actually Buddhism – like the idea that abuse is crazy wisdom and therefore okay. No, no, no, it is never okay, and it certainly isn’t what the Buddha taught – as Jack says at the end of our talk.

The next conference is in Malaysia in 2021, and I’m hoping to go. I’d like to submit a paper on self reflection for communities to help them locate cult behaviours and see that they’re damaging and un-Buddhist. This idea came from speaking to a FPMT nun who told me about the cultish behaviour in her group. How, I wondered, could someone raise the issue in such a community? A short guide to self-reflection could provide a starting point for such a conversation. But that’s for next time!

Here’s links to more elegant videos of the conference – with music.

From What Now to Beyond the Temple

If you noticed a change of name on the blog, don’t worry; it’s still the What Now? blog just with a different name. Everything is still here, but we’re moving to a self-hosted site so that I can set up Search Engine Optimisation on it, which means that the content here will be easy to find via search engines even into the future. We’re presently on a free WordPress.com blog and they don’t have much visability in search engines.

Why the name change?

The practical reason is the domain name. On a self-hosted website you need a domain name and WhatNow in any of its versions (.com or .org or .net) is taken. However Beyond the Temple domain name wasn’t, so it now belongs to me, and the URL for this site will change in a few days from https://wordpress.com/post/whatnow727/ to beyondthetemple.com.
The other reason is because, as we all know, things change. This blog started out as a group effort, but it ended up being basically my blog (Moonfire aka Tahlia) with occaisonal guest posts by the wonderful Jo Green (who I hope will continue to write for us occaisonally).
People’s interests change, and when that happens blogs naturally develop, and in this case, it’s not just me, it’s the community we’ve developed here. I and lots of other people are wanting to leave Rigpa well and truly behind us. So to reflect that, I feel we need a slight change of focus. I don’t want this blog to be defined by its relationship to Rigpa. I want to get beyond that and relate to you all outside of that context. We aren’t just Rigpa, ex-Rigpa, Tibetan Buddhist or ex-Tibetan Buddhist people, we are people walking the spiritual path in some form or other. What brought us together was spiritual abuse in Tibetan Buddhism, but that is only the ground of our community, it doesn’t define us.

Community

And we are a community. Regular commenters here and on Facebook know each other well. I think we even accept our differences these days. If someone you love dies or is sick or injured, where do ex-Rigpa folk turn? To the Beyond the Temple or What Now Facebook groups. That’s where you find the support of a community and a bunch of people who will pray for or send some love and healing to your loved ones. We are your sangha now. And it helps if a sangha has a name.
What Now on Facebook is unfindable and only for Rigpa and ex-Rigpa folk, and it’s focus is on spiritual abuse, primarly in Rigpa and Rigpa’s efforts to deal with it, so that’s too limited a focus and not open to many who would like to be part of a sangha for Tibetan Buddhist refugees. So that leaves us with Beyond the Temple  and we already have a Facebook group by that name which I set up when people started leaving the What Now group because they didn’t want to talk about abuse anymore or they found the tone too ‘negative’ – which is isn’t, by the way. We’re an incredibly supportive group who engage in very deep discussions.
But back to the Beyond the Temple group. This group is focused on us as a community with a shared ground of spiritual abuse but not defined by it. In other words, we try to talk about other things related to our ongoing spiritual path. And we try to keep the conversations from falling into too much bitching about stuff. That doesn’t mean we never refer to abuse, it just means that we try not to talk about it all the time. There are other groups now for that.
The Survivors of Vajrayana Abuse and Allies group is really good for talking about the spiritual abuse issue in any vajrayana context, and no abuser-defenders or justifiers are allowed. A lot of the people in that group are also in Beyond the Temple, and most of the What Now people are also in Beyond the Temple. So Beyond the Temple is kind of a central meeting point where kindness to each other is valued above all else and the focus is on our spiritual path and being a sangha to each other no matter where our path takes us.

Walking the spiritual path

My spiritual path is no longer related to Rigpa – and I suspect that’s the same for most of our community – and I like to talk about anything that inspires or concerns me as I travel the spiritual path. And that urge I sometimes have to share such things is why I have the Living in Peace and Clarity You Tube Channel and Facebook page. (I had them long before all this shit hit the fan.) So changing the name, and adding ‘Living in Peace and Clarity’ to the subtitle also gives me a place where I can talk about spiritual stuff that inspires me that is not related to abuse. And it allows that Facebook page to link in with this blog – another place for comunity memebers to hang out.

How will the blog change

It will move away from primarily criticising Rigpa and Lamas to including posts that are unrelated to Rigpa or even Tibetan Buddhism. I and guest authors will still criticise them when they do stupid stuff that needs to be criticised, of course, but there will be other kinds of posts as well. I don’t know what the balance will be, or even what the new kinds of posts will be about. At this stage it’s just opening us up to a wider range of topics related to the spiritual path. Hopefully, we’ll change people’s perception of us as ‘negative’ to something more realistic – after all, we’re only ‘negative’ when something needs to be criticised.
So I hope you’re all okay with that. I ran this by a reliable friend before getting it all moving, and she agreed that it was a good move.
The site will be down for a couple of days as the transfer to self hosting takes place, but then we’ll be operating on the new doman name, beyondthetemple.com
 

Lewis Silkin Report Released.

The results of the Lewis Silkin investigation into the abusive behaviour outlined in the letter to Sogyal Rinpoche written by 8 students in July 2017 was released a short time ago.
You can download the 50 page Lewis Silkin report here  and you can find the French translation on the Rigpa website along with the introductory part, including the Executive Summary and Recommendations,  in German,  Spanish, and Italian.
Please note that the full report might be distressing to some people as it addresses serious issues including violence and sexual misconduct. Those traumatised by such abusive behaviour may find some of the content retraumatising.
I would like to express, on behalf of all interested parties, our deep gratitude to everyone who has spoken out about the abuses and in particular to those who spoke to Karen Baxter and helped her to make a report that reflects the truth.
May this report be a catalyst for genuine progress in removing abuse and the acceptance of abuse not only from Rigpa but also from Tibetan Buddhism as a whole.
Here are just the Executive Summary and Recommendation part of the report for your quick perusal.

Executive Summary

Whilst I have seen evidence that many people feel that they have benefitted greatly from having Sogyal Lakar as their teacher, individual experiences are very different. There are varying degrees of closeness to Sogyal Lakar, with the closest relationships regularly referred to as the “inner circle”. The experiences of some of the members of the inner circle are very different from the experiences of many of those who are less close.
Not all of the allegations against Sogyal Lakar are upheld, as explained in the body of the report below, but based on the evidence available to me, I am satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities:
a. some students of Sogyal Lakar (who were part of the ‘inner circle’, as described later in this report) have been subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him; and
b. there were senior individuals within Rigpa who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.”

A number of serious concerns arise out of my findings which, in my opinion, must be addressed. Recommendations and proposed action points are set out at the conclusion of this report.

Recommendations

I have been asked to set out any recommendations that I have for change within Rigpa as a result of my findings. My practical recommendations are set out below. Should they be accepted, there will be detailed work to be done in implementing the recommendations across the Rigpa organisation, which operates in a number of different territories. It will be necessary in a number of respects to take into account local laws, regulations and guidance in each such territory as well as having regard to the legal personality and governance structure through which Rigpa operates in each territory.
There are also a number of matters which may require further investigation before the Rigpa leadership is able to reach final decisions in relation to this overall matter. The possibility of such further investigations is referred to at various points above.
Before moving to implement the recommendations below, my view is that the leadership of Rigpa should consider first the overall effect of these findings on its mission and work as an organisation. In the United Kingdom, for example, the trustees would need to consider whether the findings of the report, the resources required to act on the recommendations and the degree to which the work and profile of Rigpa has in the past been closely associated with the persona of Sogyal Lakar, make it possible for the organisation to move past these events and operate sustainably and successfully in the future. Appropriate advice should be taken on this and it should be noted that in raising this issue for the trustees I do not seek to guide their decision either way, such guidance being outside the scope of my investigation and remit.
Assuming that the Rigpa leadership concludes that the appropriate overall course is to put in place structures and procedures to ensure that its work as an organisation can continue in the future without the risk of harm, I recommend the following:
1. Sogyal Lakar should not take part in any future event organised by Rigpa or otherwise have contact with its students;
2. Rigpa should take steps to disassociate itself from Sogyal Lakar as fully as is possible (having regard to any legal arrangements which may for the time being connect the organisation with him);
3. Rigpa leadership in each country (being the trustees or equivalent) and the Vision Board should, as necessary, be refreshed in order to ensure that;
a. its members are unconnected with the harmful events referred to in this report and so can credibly lead the programme of changes required;
b. its members are all publically committed to the concept that abuse will not be tolerated by anyone, or against anyone, within Rigpa (including teachers); and
c. wherever possible, the leadership should include some members who are unconnected with the student body, for example lay trustees as such would be recognised in the United Kingdom.
4. Professional management should be appointed at each major Rigpa centre. Wherever possible, the management team should include some members who are not part of the student body. Care should be taken to ensure that all members of management are able to perform their responsibilities and are not inhibited in doing so, for example, as a consequence of considering themselves bound to demonstrate ‘unwavering respect’ towards the guru.
5. An appropriate risk assessment addressing the whole range of the organisation’s activities should be conducted and regularly refreshed. The risk assessment should specifically address teaching practices which are, or have been, associated with the Dzogchen Mandala – careful, well guided judgments will need to be made on the future use of such practices in the organisation’s work. For the avoidance of doubt any practice amounting to abuse of a student should never be tolerated.
6. A comprehensive and written safeguarding policy should be put in place to ensure that:
a. sexual relationships between teachers and students are either prohibited entirely, or subject to specific safeguarding measures to ensure there can be no abuse of power;
b. any ‘lama care’ that is deemed to be necessary is carried out in a way which ensures the health and safety of those providing these services is adequately protected;
c. mechanisms for the confidential reporting of concerns are clear and can be easily found by those with concerns;
d. reports of any incidents and allegations are recorded and stored in a secure and proper way;
e. incidents and allegations are promptly investigated in accordance with the policy with appropriate follow up action taken;
f. consideration is given to reporting serious incidents to relevant law enforcement authorities and/or regulators; and
g. the management and leadership of each Rigpa entity is aware of and properly trained in its responsibilities.
7. An abuse helpline outside of Rigpa should be set up, in addition to the internal reporting mechanisms made available.
8. To the extent that it has not done so already, Rigpa should review its fundraising activities to ensure that these are compliant with local laws and regulations. This review should specifically include contexts in which Rigpa events such as retreats may be used as an opportunity for third parties such as external speakers to raise funds for other causes and/or invite gratuity payments on their own behalf. There should be absolute clarity on the proper uses of all such funds.
9. A clear approach to the engagement of speakers and teachers should be established which ensures that they are aware of relevant policies, including the safeguarding and fundraising policies, before having contact with students.
10. So far as is consistent with the wider financial responsibilities of Rigpa, a fund should be created to provide professional counselling to those affected by abuse.
11. An appropriate programme of communications related to the above steps should be undertaken with the letter writers, students and the wider Rigpa community. In addition to a first communication setting out Rigpa’s commitment to a safe and secure environment for all students and the steps to be taken in achieving that, regular updates should be given until the programme of changes has been completed.
12. Rigpa’s leadership should consider (taking further advice as necessary) the extent to which it is obliged to report any of the matters set out in this report to law enforcement authorities or relevant regulators in each applicable jurisdiction.


 

Karen Baxter, Partner, Lewis Silkin LLP
22 August 2018

Rigpa’s Response?

Click here to read the statement_from_Rigpa on the results of the independent investigation
Unfortunately there is no indication in this statement that Rigpa is taking a different approach to the one they have taken over the last year. The language is the same as what we’ve heard before and of as little substance. They do say that ‘Rigpa commits to act upon the report’s recommendations,’ but what they mean by that remains to be seen. Excuse my cynicism, but I have good reason for it since saying one thing and doing another and outright lying  is something we’re all familiar with from Rigpa management.  So far their words of healing and reconciliation have only extended to those still in the organisation. The only new thing is  this ‘To acknowledge the importance of this process of healing and change, senior members of management are stepping down from their positions of governance.’  We are not given names, however. Why so vague when they have had 14 days with the report already? Plenty of time to work out who has to leave in order to follow the report’s recommendations.

Looking to the future – a message for Rigpa management

Here is an opportunity for Rigpa to truly make a fresh start. Come on my vajra family, you can do it! Find the courage of a true bodhisattva and work for the dharma, the true wisdom and compassion in Tibetan Buddhism, not the religious power structures that faciliate this kind of abuse; clean it up, remove the fuedalism and acceptance of abuse that stains the tradition so it can benefit countless future generations.
Stop acting merely to protect your status, your financial and time investment, your organisation, your religion, and your disgraced teacher. Be bigger than that; see further. And to do that you will have to stop listening to fundamentalist lamas cast in the same mould as Sogyal. Accept that the lineage is not as pure as you think it is and that the beliefs that faciliated this acceptance of abuse have no place in the modern world. Be willing to leave them behind for they cause more harm than good.
Instead show that you understand the real point of the dharma by using your own intelligence and connecting with your own deep wisdom and compassion, and give us more than vague, sweet-sounding words that you seem unable to live up to.
This is your challenge. It was always your challenge. You have failed to grasp it so far. But you can do it now if you can muster up the vision.


 
Current and previous students of Rigpa can participate in private discussion on this and other related topics on our What Now? Facebook Group. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Anyone who has left a Buddhist sangha that had an abusive teacher can join the  Beyond the Temple Facebook Group. The focus in this group is not on the abuse, but on ourselves and our spiritual life as we recover from our experience and look to the future. Click here and request to join.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page, which posts links to related articles as they come to hand.

Issues with the Rigpa Code of Conduct

Rigpa has released their code of conduct. It comes in two documents, one is the rigpas_code_of_conduct_15_june_2018_eng and the second is shared_values_and_guidelines_of_the_rigpa_community_15_june_2018_ The second document informs and expands upon the first.
The actual code is short enough to post here:

Code of Conduct

Rigpa is an international community of individuals following the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It is our shared wish to create a safe environment for the study and practice of the Buddhist teachings, one where we all feel a sense of responsibility for each others’ well-being and spiritual path.

Whatever their participation or role in the activities associated with Rigpa, everyone has a responsibility to conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of the land and the ethical behaviour outlined in this document.
To care for others, ourselves and our community we are committed to:

  • Acting in ways that are kind, loving and non-judgmental.
  • Being aware of our actions and the way we may affect others.
  • Acting in ways that are not aggressive or intimidating. Harassment and bullying of any kind are not tolerated under any circumstances.
  • Never treating anyone in a way that might cause physical harm or psychological trauma.

Teachers, instructors and anyone representing Rigpa at any level also commit themselves to:

  • Holding as their highest priority and motivation the welfare of the individual student, the Rigpa community and the Buddha Dharma as a whole.
  • Not entering into an intimate relationship with a participant during an event, retreat, course, or any situation during which they are in a position of authority. In other circumstances, any intimate relationships are expected to be based on mutual respect and openly acknowledged, meaning non-secretive.
  • Taking part in regular training in ethical behaviour, which will include recognising misconduct, receiving complaints and dealing with grievances.

Not as it appears

On the surface this looks like the kind of code that would make sure that the emotional, physical and sexual abuses in Rigpa attested to by various people over the last forty years could never happen again, but if you look closely, you will see that it doesn’t actually do that. If you take just the code document it looks like it applies to everyone, students and teachers – and a Rigpa representative assured me that it does – but when you read the ‘Shared values and Guidelines for the Rigpa Community,’ you discover a ‘specific’ category for Vajrayana and Dzogchen which appears to be a loophole for any lama wanting to practice ‘crazy wisdom.’

Why is it in two documents? If you asked, you’d probably be told that it’s so the document isn’t too long, but it could also be so just the good looking part can be displayed and shared without the part that makes it clear that the code document isn’t worth the webspace it takes up.

Rather than a document designed to stop abuse by lamas; this looks to me like a document designed to make students and the public feel that the right thing has been done, that Rigpa has dealt with the abuse issue, and has abandoned their policy of ignoring the abuse at the core of their organisation, but does it provide any real protection or is it just another step in their plan to minimise and move on from the fall out of the revelations of the 8 close students in July 2017 so they can get back to business as usual?

Does Rigpa know the meaning of the words they use in the code?

The problem is that without Rigpa management actually labelling their lama’s behaviour as abuse and publicly denouncing it, this code of conduct is nothing more than a smokescreen. Why? Because management and devoted students of Sogyal Rinpoche do not recognise abuse as abuse. Rigpa and Sogyal have a history of saying what people want to hear, but their words have no meaning because they are confused about the real meaning of words such as ‘kindness’, ‘abuse’, ‘inappropriate behaviour’, ‘benefit’ and ‘harm’ when used in relation to a master/guru/lama.

For example, the Rigpa press statement that came out in 2011 in response to the Canadian video In the Name of Enlightenment, which also raised the abuse issue, said “We have only ever seen him [Sogyal] act for the benefit of other people, and with their best interests at heart,” and this was distributed by people that, according to what was revealed in the 2017 letter by the 8 close students and confirmed to me by others in a similar position in the organisation, both witnessed and experienced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the person they are defending.

That press release also said, “Nevertheless, any allegations of inappropriate behaviour are taken very seriously by the organization.” Not seriously enough to put a stop to it, however. And not seriously enough to reach out to those harmed with some offer of support or assistance. One can only assume that they were either lying or that they have no idea what inappropriate behaviour looks like.

They say the right things but don’t follow them, just like their master.

The problem with a belief system that distorts one’s perception of abuse

You can’t stop abuse if you don’t recognise abuse as abuse, and for so long as vajrayana ‘masters’ are held to a different set of rules to everyone else the problems around ethical behaviour by lamas in Rigpa and Tibetan Buddhism as a whole will continue.

What is kindness? In Rigpa we were taught to see Sogyal Rinpoche emotionally abusing his close students as ‘the greatest kindness’ and as a ‘training’ that will bring the student to enlightenment more quickly than one could achieve without it. This belief may no longer be taught to new students, but it will still be the prescribed view for those entering the vajrayana path because it’s a core belief of the organisation.

What is harassment and bullying? I have witnessed people being bullied by Sogyal Rinpoche, but they don’t see it as bullying. They see it as ‘training’, as a blessing. Many witnessed him punching a nun during a retreat at Lerab Ling. She ran off stage in tears and obviously in pain, but in a letter written months later, she declared that she saw the interaction as beneficial. In her mind, it wasn’t an assault, even though many hundreds of people saw her being punched.

What causes physical harm or psychological trauma? At the vajrayana level of Rigpa any perception of abuse by the lama is seen as a fault in the student’s own perception, not in the behaviour of the lama, and the value of an action is not the action itself but the motivation behind it. According this this belief system, if your motivation is good, the results of your actions are good, even if it appears negative. Also an enlightened being can do no harm, even if it appears as harm to us ‘lesser’ beings, and we can’t judge if someone is enlightened or not because we are a ‘lesser’ being. Since we are instructed to see our lama as a buddha, regardless of his actual status in reality, this means that whatever our lama does is seen as enlightened activity, and therefore not something that could cause harm or trauma. Circuitous logic indeed, but that’s the interpretation fostered in Rigpa.

What is the highest priority for the welfare of the individual student? In terms of Buddhism, the highest priority is the student’s enlightenment. And in Rigpa the quickest way to enlightenment is seen as having a master who attacks your hidden faults—or is it abuse?

The specific category for vajrayana and dzogchen

The “Shared Values and Guidelines for the Rigpa Community” document is a longer document which you can download by clicking here.  The problematic aspect of this is the ‘specific’ and separate category for vajrayana and dzogchen levels of the path in which  students give ‘consent’ to unspecified behaviour.

Here’s the relevant parts:
Entering the Vajrayana Path

  • Individuals who choose to follow the vajrayana path, and be guided by a master as set out in the vajrayana and Dzogchen teachings can only do so by making a formal request for this level of spiritual guidance. They will receive teachings on the ethics and commitments specifc to vajrayana and Dzogchen.
  • Making such a formal request is a serious step, which should come only after discussion with experienced instructors about the nature of the teachings and what it means to receive this guidance. It should be based on a strong foundation of study, practice, investigation and contemplation by the student, developed over a period of time. It is the responsibility of the vajrayana master to prepare the student for the master-disciple relationship.
  • Such formal requests are completely optional and voluntary, and when made by a student, constitute consent to this level of spiritual guidance.

For Teachers
This section is specifc to qualifed Vajrayana and Dzogchen masters.
In the case of qualifed vajrayana and Dzogchen masters, there are requirements and commitments specifc to the tantras, and based entirely on bodhichitta, with which they will be very familiar. Each connection between a student and a teacher is unique and based on mutual consent. We highlight the following:

  • It is the responsibility of the teacher to prepare the student for the disciple master relationship. This must be entered into consciously and through the student making a formal request. But the student needs first to create a strong foundation of study, practice, investigation and contemplation and also discuss with experienced instructors about the nature of the teachings and what it means to receive this level of spiritual guidance.
  • In the context of the disciple-master relationship, it is perfectly acceptable for both the student and the teacher to make their boundaries known, and for the student to seek clarifications from the teacher, with the support of senior students, or instructors or teachers.

The issue is the specific category

Rigpa is vajrayana and dzogchen. It has always been vajrayana and Dzogchen. Rigpa prides itself on bringing vajrayana and dzogchen to the West, and that’s what draws Western students to Tibetan Buddhism. So this special category is at the core of the organisation and represents the dzogchen level students most desire to attain, and yet, despite the assurance given to me by someone in Rigpa that the code of conduct does cover this specific category, it still reads like ‘an escape clause’ for tantric gurus in the form of the student giving consent.

Dzongsar Khyentse’s (DZK)stamp is all over this—the secrecy, the receiving teachings before making the ‘serious step’ into a tantric relationship with a guru (his evaluation of what went wrong in Rigpa was inadequate education) and the formal request. You might be asked to sign something like Dzongsar Khyentse’s ‘Deed of Agreement’ that he posted on Facebook and then hastily removed when people complained that it was in extremely poor taste. That deed of agreement certainly sheds light on what might be meant by this formal request and ‘consent’.

The core of DZK’s teachings on vajrayana as explained in his talks at Rigpa is that once you take a lama as your tantric guru, you are sworn to secrecy, you see everything the guru does as beneficial—even if it is unethical—and you do not criticise. He made it clear that that part of his view of vajrayana was nonnegotiable.

In line with this approach, in Rigpa, according to this document, once you have accepted a lama as your tantric guru, you’ve given your consent. Consent to what?  “… consent to this level of spiritual guidance.” 
What this level of spiritual guidance entails is not explained. You’ll be told that later. But we know, because we’ve been there and done that.

What does it mean to receive the guidance of a vajrayana master?

The instructions you’ll get on what it means to receive the guidance of a vajrayana master will be the same instructions we received before, the ones that led students willingly into an abusive situation. Rigpa hasn’t changed their beliefs on this. If they had, they would have admitted and denounced the abuse. And DZK, their main advisor, has the same views. They are not stated in this ‘code of conduct’, but you can be sure that they are the same views that led to an environment that facilitated abuse in the first place, views that basically stop students recognising abuse as abuse and bind them to secrecy, even if they find themselves abused.

Why is there a separate category for vajrayana and dzogchen teachers if they are covered by the code? And since what is meant by ‘this level of spiritual guidance’ is not explained, what kind of behaviour is ‘consent’ needed for? Why can’t they be transparent about this?

The whole idea of consent, formal application, and instructions on what it means to receive guidance from a vajrayana master suggests that this special secret category has it’s own rules. And those of us who were indoctrinated by Rigpa for years know it does. That’s the whole problem here: this idea that whatever the vajra guru does we have to see it as beneficial even if it appears  contrary to basic human ethics.

That kind of  idea has no place in the modern world. And unless Rigpa releases a statement denouncing the behaviour of Sogyal Rinpoche, we have to assume that they still hold to this fundamentalist view. Especially when they are not being transparent about what the consent is for. And especially when, according to what we were told in Rigpa, those we saw being emotionally abused consented to their treatment by Sogyal Rinpoche by agreeing to be ‘trained’. Why wouldn’t that ‘consent to this level of spiritual guidance’ be seen as waving the code of conduct?

The repercussions of consent – never sign away your rights

By making a formal request for this ‘level of spiritual guidance’ and giving your consent to whatever that guidance includes, you will have signed your rights away. You could be said to have ‘asked for’ whatever the guru dishes out, and, presumably, due to the requirement for instruction, with full knowledge of what you’ve gotten yourself into. This would make it even less likely that anyone who eventually realises they have been abused rather than enlightened might say anything about it – let alone make a formal grievance.

Any formal agreement of consent has the potential to void the code of conduct for that student and so this code does not stop abusive behaviour by tantric gurus; instead it hides it behind a benign exterior, forces it even further underground and ties the gag even tighter to make sure that no word of it gets out.

You could say that it’s their business if they know what they’re doing, but even if students are actually warned that the guru can do whatever he likes to them and they can’t complain, students desire for the teachings and for enlightenment is so strong that they will likely ignore the warning, just as some of those who were abused did, and just as we who watched emotional abused at retreats ignored it because we wanted the teachings and figured the ‘training’ was part of the package.

True consent is not possible where there is a power imbalance

When the person requesting consent holds something of value (like special teachings and a fast track to enlightenment) back from the person they want consent from, refusing to deliver it unless they have that consent, any consent given is not truly consent because of the power imbalance. This is a point many people will miss, and it’s a real problem, because when someone complains, they will be reminded that they ‘consented’. That ‘consent’ will be held over them, a weapon to keep them quiet.

Some of those abused by Sogyal Rinpoche did give their consent to being ‘trained’ but they didn’t know that that training would mean that they would be assaulted or expected to provide sexual favours or that they should accept every bit of emotional abuse dished out to them. Will that be in the explanation given to potential tantric disciples? I doubt it.

Remember that these instructions will be given by people whose beliefs mean that they do not recognise abuse as abuse when it’s dished out by one’s tantric guru. And if those who were abused did know that they might be assaulted, they didn’t know that the result for them would be trauma, not enlightenment.

We were so keen to get the Dzogchen teachings (highest tantra) that we were willing to do whatever it took and that including putting our hands up for training. We were perfectly willing to ignore the possible repercussions of giving our power so totally to another, and perfectly willing not to examine too closely. That will still be the case.

Lured by the promise of enlightenment, students will still willingly embrace the demands placed on them by tantric gurus, only now they will be signing on the dotted line, so that unscrupulous lamas, who might think they are above any code imposed on them by students, can rest assured that they will face no backlash should they step over the line into abusive behaviour. And that appeared to be the whole point of DZK’s ‘contract’—a way to cover his arse.

What about the behaviour of the tantric guru?

Mention is made of requirements and commitments specific to the tantras, and based entirely on bodhichitta, with which they will be very familiar. They will be familiar with them, will they? Like Sogyal was? How about making potential students familiar with them?

“Towards the lifestyle and activity of the lama, may wrong view not arise for even an instant, and may I see whatever he does, whether it seems to be in accordance with the Dharma or not, as a teaching for me.”
A GUIDE TO THE PRACTICE OF NGÖNDRO. 2nd edition – January 2007, published by Rigpa. Page 210. 

So when you look closely, this ‘code of conduct’ would not stop the same kind of abuse from happening again. It’s a white wash, something Rigpa can use to show charity commissions and the public that they have dealt with the issue, while not dealing with the core issue. Unfortunately it will also manipulate naïve students into thinking they are in good hands.

Cult recruitment tactic

The Rigpa ‘code of conduct’ makes it clear that you are not told when you enter Rigpa what will be required of you at later stages of your involvement with the organisation. You are told only that the the ethics and commitments specifc to vajrayana and Dzogchen will be revealed to you at a later stage. Clearly, despite any assurances that the code still applies, the requirements change at this point.  The truth of the matter, unstated here but made clear in Rigpa literature, is that suddenly you are expected to take whatever the person you accept as your tantric guru dishes out.

This deception is a cult tactic of not revealing the true nature of the cult at the recruitment stage. The manipulation is that you are lured into thinking that the organisation is benign because it has a code of conduct that looks just fine. New recruits will not be aware that that once they enter the vajrayana and accept a tantric guru—presumably any tantric guru— they will be expected to “see whatever he does, whether it seems to be in accordance with the Dharma or not, as a teaching” not as assault, sexual coercion or emotional abuse. If you don’t recognise that you’re being abused, as many still in Rigpa don’t, you won’t turn to a code of conduct or a grievance procedure even if there is one.

“The main methods of cult recruitment revolve around deception and manipulation. Potential recruits are not told the true nature or intentions of the group. Instead, recruiters portray it as something mainstream, low-pressure and benign.” https://people.howstuffworks.com/cult3.htm

Has anything really changed? Are you surprised?

I haven’t even touched here on the fact that sexual relations between students and teachers are only banned during courses and retreats, not banned entirely outside of a marriage! Read the comments for other problems people see with this code.


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

Update on the Independent Investigation

What Now received the following update on the Lewis Silken independent investigation from someone who has been supporting the process of negotiation around the investigation. The writer is not one of the 8 letter writers and does not represent all those involved in negotiations, so the following should be taken only as one viewpoint.
Since the investigation commissioned by Rigpa from London law firm Lewis Silkin was announced, five months ago, not much has been said in public about its progress. The reason for this is that there has been a protracted period of negotiation back and forth via the Lead Investigator, Karen Baxter, between those who would like to participate and the Rigpa “Investigating Committee”. This committee consists of trustees Rich Snow and Liz Acosta in the US and Russell Blakely and Susan Burrows in the UK. Although in contact with the Rigpa leadership, to fulfil their obligations the Investigating Committee has to act with independence from them and their decisions in relation to the investigation are final.
The areas of negotiation have been around who participates and how, protection of confidentiality, protection from prosecution and the publication of the report.

WHO PARTICIPATES AND HOW

When Rigpa announced the investigation, they presented it as being centred around the eight letter writers and announced that these would be participating. However, there had been no discussion with these eight people about whether they wished to participate and, if so, on what terms. Furthermore, all of the issues raised in their letter had already been raised multiple times over past decades, so it seemed important that people with a historical perspective on these issues should also be included to give a more rounded and nuanced picture. Meanwhile there were other current and former students who wished to share their testimonies about experiencing or witnessing abuse or financial misconduct. So, it was agreed that the investigation could be broadened to include a greater diversity of contributors. It was also agreed that whilst the preference of Karen Baxter, the Lead Investigator, was to meet people face to face where possible, people could contribute in whatever way they felt comfortable with, including giving written submissions.

PROTECTION OF CONFIDENTIALITY

The kinds of information and stories that people wish to share are difficult and often traumatic. Victims feel a variety of emotions about discussing their experiences – including fear, shame and anxiety – and many would not wish to be identified as this would add to their trauma. For this reason, it was agreed that each person who participated could chose to what extent they were identifiable or anonymised in the final report. No information about the participants would be shared with Rigpa, unless permission was explicitly given. This means there is the possibility of sharing testimony to provide context, that would be useful in giving the Lead Investigator a clearer picture, with the proviso that none of it can be used directly in the final report, if that’s what people prefer.

PROTECTION FROM PROSECUTION

Another reason that people have felt inhibited about coming forward with their experiences is the concern that what they say may be used against them by Rigpa and they may be threatened with being sued for defamation, despite telling the truth – an intimidatingly costly process for most people to defend. The Investigating Committee offered guarantees that this will not happen. Immunity from prosecution by Rigpa was offered to the letter writers but, on request, the committee has extended that and has stated in recent days “We confirm that no legal action will be taken by or on behalf of Rigpa against any of the 8 letter writers or against any other victim of abuse who comes forward, as a result of their providing witness evidence to Karen [Baxter] as part of the investigation.”

PUBLICATION OF THE REPORT

The final, and initially insuperable, obstacle to many people’s participation in the investigation was that Rigpa would not agree to publish the full report once it was completed – and furthermore, neither the letter writers nor any other participants would be allowed to see it. They would only commit to publishing the “recommendations”. Understandably, many people felt this was totally inadequate and that after decades of failure to deal with these issues or even talk about them openly, this would constitute more of the same and sounded like a cover-up, so participation would be a pointless exercise in which victims were effectively being mistreated yet again. For this reason, many people who had initially offered to participate no longer wished to. Fortunately, there was a change of heart by the Investigating Committee and/or the Rigpa leadership and they recently released the following statement via Karen Baxter, the Lead Investigator at Lewis Silkin:
The investigating committee has asked me to highlight to you that its members wholeheartedly share your desire to ensure that your concerns are investigated and addressed thoroughly. The committee has absolutely no desire to facilitate a whitewash and its members are clear that that cannot be allowed to happen. There is a need to balance a desire for an open and transparent process against the highly personal, sensitive and confidential nature of the information that might be provided; where witnesses come forward on condition of anonymity or confidentiality, that needs to be respected.
As a result, the investigating committee has agreed to commit to making a copy of the final report available to each of you and to the public. This is on the understanding that I will be asked to ensure that any highly personal or confidential information is redacted, anonymised or otherwise dealt with in a way which respects these sensitivities in the final report. It has been agreed that the way that this is done will be left to my discretion and not determined by the investigating committee or Ripga.”
So, the report will not only be available to participants but also to anyone else who is interested. As a result, the people who had withdrawn their cooperation are now participating and the process of the investigation has begun in earnest. The Rigpa “Vision Board” have stated that they hope the report will be ready “by the summer”. This seems quite a tight deadline, given the work that needs to be done. Although it is understandable that all parties would like to see it as soon as possible, it is more important it is done as well as possible.
Inevitably, some people will still feel wary of being involved in the investigation, given things that have happened in the past. Ultimately it is a question of trust – on both sides. But beyond that, given what the Investigating Committee and the Rigpa leadership have committed themselves to, any attempt to renege on these promises would leave the individual members of the committee, the Rigpa leadership and even Lewis Silkin open to damaging legal action – so it is unlikely.

Why participate

The more people that come forward with compelling evidence and information, the more specific and thorough the final report can be. The investigators can only draw conclusions from the information they are given.
Hopefully this set of assurances will encourage others to come forward who may have felt reluctant until now. If you have experienced or witnessed anything that you feel would be relevant to the investigation, please contact Karen Baxter at Lewis Silkin, via this email: karen.baxter@lewissilkin.com
I have posted this article in good faith after being assured that the information is accurate, but it may not give a full picture of the situation because these assurances are probably not legally binding. I  advise anyone participating to only give evidence that is completely accurate, such that you would feel comfortable testifying to its truth in court. 
Details on other investigations of Rigpa that you may wish to participate in can be found on our Details of Investigations page.


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. Is is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

Going Private

A while ago, I said I wouldn’t write anymore in-depth articles, and even though I haven’t, the blog has kept running until now. I truly don’t have time to write those in-depth articles  – they took me a couple of days work – so those won’t return unless someone else writes them, but I’ve discovered that after a day working with words, though I don’t feel like writing, I’m happy to shoot a video and edit it. I have been putting these vlogs publically on one of my You Tube Channels, but from now on, I’m only going to share them with my patrons and members of the What Now? Facebook group.
As some of you know, I’ve received some nastiness from people over my willingness to speak out on the topic of abuse in Tibetan Buddhism, and not all of it came from people dedicated to Sogyal Rinpoche. It seems that when you’re trying to walk the middle way, you can upset people from both extremes. After a particularly viscious couple of messages recently in which my motivations were completely misunderstood and the degree of hatred expressed was actually rather scary, I decided, after being assured by quite a few people that they are still finding my words helpful, that I would keep vlogging, but in private.
Those of us who have left Rigpa in the wake of the revelations of abuse, still have much to examine if we are to fully recover from our experience in Rigpa, and that examination is taking place in the Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely to keep it free of personal attacks.  If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
If you weren’t in Rigpa or don’t want to join the Facebook group but you want to continue the dicussion and/or hear my vlogs, you can access the vlogs and be able to comment on them by joining my patreon Community. Yes, to join us you would need to contribute a little each month to support my vlogging and writing, but that’s how I’ll know that you want to walk this journey with me, rather than abuse me.
I’ve given up on Rigpa and all those lamas who insist on silence and obedience, and I am now, along with others in the group, focused on examination of the beliefs we held as part of the process of moving on with our lives.
I don’t know when or if another blog post will appear here. You’re welcome to submit a post for consideration if you wish.


Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who don’t want to discuss abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
 

Defamation Case News & Cult Checklist

We have just heard that the Lerab Ling community is going ahead with the lawsuit for defamation of the French Lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cesbron who was assembling testimonies from people harmed by their time in Rigpa for statements he said about Lerab Ling in the local newspaper, the Midi Libre, in December 2017.
According to those bringing the legal action, he made accusations that characterise Rigpa as a cult, namely:
– abuse of power, breach of trust and fraud
– cutting people off from their families
– rendering people incapable of integrating into society
– taking away people’s bearings.

Attestations needed

Both sides are now wanting attestations from people of their experience in Rigpa. Lerab Lings wants information to help prove that the above points are not true and Jean-Baptiste wants information to help prove that they are true.
If you want to support Lerab Ling’s case, you are presumably still a Rigpa student so check your emails for details of where you can send your attestation. They want them by the end of the month.
If you feel you have information on these points that might help the lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cesbron to fight this case from his side, please fill in this form and send by post to the following address: Maitre Jean-Baptiste Cesbron, 849 rue Favre de Saint Castor, 34080 Montpellier, France.  You can also contact him via email jean-baptiste.cesbron@avocat-conseil.fr You also need to attach a copy of your carte d’identity or passport to the form.
Though experiences at Lerab Ling are most relevant, any experiences with Rigpa anywhere will assist the court in getting a clear picture of the organisation.

English Translation of the Form

Name:
First Name:
D.O.B:
Place of Birth:
Profession:
Address/:
Postal code:
Town:
On the section reading : « lien de parenté …avec les parties » :
Family tie, close links with, subordinate relationship (submitted to an authority, dependency on somebody), in collaboration with or community of interests)
Bear in mind that the Attestation will be used in a court of justice, in taking into account the provision of the article 441-7 which carries the following penalties for making false or misleading statements:
“…is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 1 year and a fine of 15000 euros as a result of making a an attestation or a certificate containing inaccurate facts or incorrect information.”
(This phrase must be written out by hand below)
……………………………..
…………………………….
……………………………..
Please give details of events that you have been present for or witnessed personally:
………………
…………….
…………..
…………..
Your signature:
Place:
Date : day month year
Element to add :
– an original or a copy of an official document justifyng of your identity and your signature.

 

Are they or aren’t they?

I think it is terribly sad that it has come to this. To think that former sangha members are now taking sides to defend either their beloved Lerab Ling or the lawyer who spoke publically about what he had discovered from his investigations.
But that is how it is. So be it.
I suspect that those in Rigpa – both management and students – may not have a very good idea of just where they cross the line from genuine Vajrayana community into cult territory.  It’s certainly a question that is long overdue for discussion within Rigpa. Sogyal saying, “We aren’t a cult,” is not sufficient.
There is no precise legal definition of ‘cult’ that I am aware of and so there are bound to be arguments about what the word means, but the more Rigpa tries to argue it should not be considered a cult the more it might persuade people of the opposite.
In 2010 Rigpa was intending to organise a training for instructors to enable them to answer questions from students who might think Rigpa is a cult. One Senior Instructor at the time was asked to contribute some ideas. He looked up various cult checklists and based on those drew up a list of what he thought might be some of the most challenging questions for Rigpa to answer. The questions are below (with the name of the originator of the checklist in brackets).
The instructor didn’t hear if any action was taken on his suggestions, nor did he receive an acknowledgment until he wrote and asked if his contribution had been received.
I’m just posting these for your consideration, not making any judgement either way, but obviously, there are problems if the answer to any of these questions is judged to be ‘yes.’ This is not a complete list, just the ones the instructor felt Rigpa needed to look at.

The Challenging Questions

– Does SR claim divine authority for his deeds and for his orders to followers? (cf Eileen Barker)
– Is there any deception in the recruitment of new members? (cf Shirley Harrison)
– Are members used for fundraising or missionary activities for little or no pay to line the leader’s pockets? (cf Shirley Harrison)
– Does Rigpa have an authority figure that everyone seems to acknowledge as having some special skill or awareness? (cf Steve Eichel)
– Does SR set forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which he is exempt? (cf James R. Lewis).
– Does SR make public assertions that he knows are false and/or does Rigpa have a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders? (cf James R. Lewis).
– Is there any sexual manipulation of members? (cf Isaac Bonewits)
– Is there a major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals? (cf Steven Hassan)
– Is there any deliberate holding back of information, distorting information to make it more acceptable, or outright lying? (cf Steven Hassan)
– Is there a buddy system to monitor and control, reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership and individual behavior monitored by whole group? (cf Steven Hassan)
So what do you think? Do these apply to Rigpa?


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. 
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