Post by Joanne Clark
Recently, Dagri Rinpoche, a monk who has been accused of inappropriately touching women on at least two occasions wrote a statement in defence of himself. Here is the English translation:
In this statement, his own version of events is very different from the version of the two women making the allegations. He is stating that the women are lying, that they have no basis whatsoever for their allegations and are making them up out of thin air. He also suggests that the woman who made the allegation in the UTube video was mentally unstable.
Then in the final paragraph, after making an assumption about the “contempt” of those who have “made these baseless allegations and have accused me of misdeeds that I did not commit”: he then declares some Lojong-style (See footnote on Eight Verses, below) statements in regard to these accusations, saying somewhat proudly that “I welcome you to use whatever means you can to continue to wrongly accuse me”.
Sadly, I feel that the tone of this declaration feels a little confrontational to me. I don’t think one can practice Lojong at the same time that one is publicly accusing someone of lying. The declaration feels a little proud too while Lojong is a unique practice of humility. Now, I am no great practitioner or scholar of Dharma, but I do treasure Lojong teachings and have used them frequently to help me through troubled times. It strengthens my resolve, compassion and patience to take on the ill will and harm done to me by others, to take all suffering and blame onto myself—and to put all victory onto others. It is really a miraculous and transformative practice in my experience.
So I agree with Dagri Rinpoche about the value of cultivating gratitude towards harm-doers for their gift of giving us the practice of patience. But I question whether one can view the two women in this case as “harm-doers”. And Lojong is a very private practice in reality and I wonder about the worth of declaring this gratitude publicly. So I question his purpose in doing that now.
And there’s another problem with this, the bigger problem. At least one of the women who have made allegations regarding Dagri Rinpoche’s misconduct has spoken about the many years of suffering she has undergone as a result of his actions. She claims that her spiritual path has been ruined. Watching her on UTube, it is clear that she is in distress and a natural response to her would be some compassion. However, there is no mention throughout his letter about that, about her clear suffering, no compassion expressed.
The only reference to suffering Dagri Rinpoche makes is to the suffering of bad karma experienced by those who make false allegations and hold “contempt” for him. The only compassion he expresses is for those who are behaving wrongly. Now again, I am no scholar or great practitioner, but the essence of Lojong in my experience is compassionate humility, a special kind of strong humility that is hard to explain to those who have not experienced it. It is not about beating one’s chest and declaring oneself a practitioner, nor is it self-debasing, but it does increase self-confidence, quiet self-confidence. And it increases one’s capacity to deeply feel the suffering of others. Sadly, I see no evidence of that in his statement.
Here is a suggestion I have for how Dagri Rinpoche might have demonstrated that he was practicing Lojong, without once needing to even quote from the Lojong instructions. He could have said:
“I have always said that I am full of flaws and I deeply regret the harm that I have caused these women who have made allegations against me. I take full responsibility and blame for their suffering and will do anything in my power to help them find peace and to insure that I never harm any being in this way again.”
It is said that the essence of Lojong is to take all blame and defeat onto oneself and to give all praise and victory to others. If so, isn’t it better to do this than to say you’re doing it? Wouldn’t that statement above be more in line with the practice than repeatedly accusing those who have made allegations regarding his behaviours of lying?
Also, there have been statements from teachers both within the FPMT and within Rigpa that we should see our teachers as Buddhas and their “supposed” faulty actions as simply “manifestations” to help us on the path. They say this in response to our distress over seeing teachers abuse students. However, I suggest that a Buddha manifesting such flaws that cause harm to others would necessarily follow up with manifestations of how we can honestly own our flaws and take proper steps to end the suffering. Surely that would be the least a skilful Buddha would do?
Many of us were drawn to the Dharma because of its unique, profound and vast teachings on how to cultivate love and compassion. The Lojong teachings are a great example of that. Every time I see a teacher within this tradition using the teachings in order to turn coldly away from a suffering human being, it chills me to the bone. I continue to pray that someday the unique and transformative teachings preserved within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition will be used properly to honestly and courageously address these challenging situations and to alleviate the suffering caused from them. It is time to stop using these teachings improperly in order to pile harm on top of harm.
Here is an example of a Lojong Text, treasured particularly in the Gelug tradition:
With a determination to achieve the highest aim
For the benefit of all sentient beings
Which surpasses even the wish-fulfilling gem,
May I hold them dear at all times.
Whenever I interact with someone,
May I view myself as the lowest amongst all,
And, from the very depths of my heart,
Respectfully hold others as superior.
In all my deeds may I probe into my mind,
And as soon as mental and emotional afflictions arise-
As they endanger myself and others-
May I strongly confront them and avert them.
When I see beings of unpleasant character
Oppressed by strong negativity and suffering,
May I hold them dear-for they are rare to find-
As if I have discovered a jewel treasure!
When others, out of jealousy
Treat me wrongly with abuse, slander, and scorn,
May I take upon myself the defeat
And offer to others the victory.
When someone whom I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes,
Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways,
May I regard him still as my precious teacher.
In brief, may I offer benefit and joy
To all my mothers, both directly and indirectly,
May I quietly take upon myself
All hurts and pains of my mothers.
May all this remain undefiled
By the stains of the eight mundane concerns;
And may I, recognizing all things as illusion,
Devoid of clinging, be released from bondage.
The Eight Verses of Mind Training
How do you feel about this response?