It just occurred to me that I never announced here the release of my book on the last couple of years, Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism. Most of you have likely already heard this, but just in case you haven’t, the book is available now.
I’m really hopeless when it comes to selling books, but I hope to cover my costs so I can then donate anything else that comes in to The Alliance for Buddhist Ethics and the Cult Information and Family Support group in Australia, so your money won’t be lining my pockets. I wrote this to help people, and I’m pleased to say that the responses I’ve gotten from the target audience are overwhelmingly positive. It was well worth writing it.
You can get the book from all online shops or by order through your local book store (quote the ISBN of 978-0-6485130-4-9 )
Rather than me talking about it, I’ll let you read the words of some of those who have read it:
A summary of the therapeutic journey for people healing from involvement in a religious group
‘Fallout is a very personal, emotionally literate, and thoroughly researched and documented account of Tahlia Newland’s journey in regards to leaving a religious group. It’s an excellent account of the immensely heart-rending difficultly of honouring and following your spiritual longing while at the same time sensing that there is something ‘not quite right’ with the reality of the spiritual teacher. Newland includes the heart-breaking, mind-tangling and spirit-breaking dilemmas involved in her journey as she explores the issue of trying to reconcile and discern the reality of Rigpa with the wisdom she gained from being part of Rigpa.Geoffrey Beatson, psychotherapist.
‘Down to earth yet passionately heartfelt at the same time, what stands out in Newland’s book is her profound common sense. It’s a very real account that includes following the most powerful human longing to join with a religious teacher who speaks to your longing, the intense sense of betrayal when the teacher emerges as abusive, and subsequently the healing journey required to move on with one’s life.
‘Fallout is about being with a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, but the journey she underwent is applicable far beyond Buddhist groups. It’s a sensible guide to any person who is thinking to become involved, is currently involved in, or who is leaving or has left a religious group or spiritual teacher.
‘The material on healing trauma is an up-to-date, well considered and highly readable summary of the therapeutic journey for people healing from involvement in a religious group. Newland’s book is ultimately full of hope.’
The next one is just excerpts from a review posted on Goodreads. You can read the whole thing here, and it’s well worth taking a look at it because it’s such a comprehensive and insightful review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2944398232
‘Wise. Wise by virtue of not trying to be. Wise by its swiftness and vulnerability. By its ability to integrate a huge amount of information from different sources – journalistic, scholarly, historical, spiritual. By its unpretentious narrative documentation of the author’s waking up to a grounded view of her own spiritual practice. …
‘There’s no ponderous, abstract bullshit on the nature of the dharma or the human heart, though of course these are the central subjects. Rather, she’s reporting her own “waking up” process, and binding together a huge compendium of resources for victims of spiritual abuse – both within her community and in comparable situations. She’s also documenting a history that happened in part through blogs and Facebook groups and would be lost to future historians: this is excellent sociological data of the participant-observer sort. And it’s also a thorough, well-documented, highly readable telling of the story of the undoing of Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche. …Angela Jamison, academic and yoga instructor.
‘It feels like an act of love. This labor means that this resource will be available in a timely manner to people recovering from the situation she describes. It’s also a great resource to many of us recovering from revelations of abuse in a variety of spiritual communities in the wake of #metoo.
‘The writing is so damn good. With the exception of a few narrative flourishes, it is so straightforward that it’s more or less invisible. This clarity, and ability to modulate her voice in the narrative (it’s her story, but it’s NOT about her), is commendable for someone going through a traumatic process of having her entire worldview torn apart. You get a great sense of Newland’s mind and heart here. But what you never get, reader, is bogged down in rumination or speculation. This is story and good strong critique. She narrates with detail and multiple perspectives while still being direct and a super-fast read. It’s fast because it absorbs you.’
Tenzin Palmo’s endorsement
Tenzin Palmo actually responded to my request that she read and – if she felt to – write an endorsement for the back cover. I was delighted when she sent me the following:
‘In recent years the long-standing problem of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of students by their spiritual teachers has been revealed and highlighted. Tahlia Newland takes the classic case of Sogyal Lakar and the Rigpa organisation to explore and try to understand the dynamics behind this painful issue. Her report lays bare the harm and anguish left behind in the wake of such appalling behaviour and the subsequent efforts, by those who seek to maintain their power and control, to condone such conduct and meanwhile denigrate the victims. In this feudal outlook, both physical violence and sexual predatory behaviour towards dependents are viewed as acceptable. In certain cases this power-based attitude has sought to be imported into Western Dharma circles. This is a complete distortion of the impeccable Vajrayana path and creates much confusion, disenchantment and pain. So we are grateful to Ms Newland for bravely looking into this controversial issue with such compassion and insight.’Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
Dispels the myth of crazy wisdom
This is from the woman who organised the paper she, Damcho and I delivered at the Sakyadhita Conference . I like her term ‘the myth of crazy wisdom and enlightenment by abuse’.
‘This fine work reveals the excruciating pain, resistance and fear of those within the Rigpa organisation as they grapple with a huge shift in perspective of the teacher they loved and admired—the insightful, brilliant and yet deeply flawed author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying—and shows how people can come together in the age of the internet to find truth and express love and caring for one another. The author captures this painful moment in Buddhism’s history where cruelty—that most harmful of human flaws and the polar opposite of loving-kindness—has crept into and corrupted the Buddhadharma. She brings both compassion for survivors and deeply penetrating wisdom, dispelling the myth of crazy wisdom and enlightenment-by-abuse with a clear-headed vision.’Dr Jack Wicks
An enormous amount of research
The next review is by an author who read it as research into her latest book – it has a cult in it.
‘This book provides a courageous and disturbing account of disillusionment and eventual break from a Tibetan Buddhist cult. Newland writes with authority and bravery, pulling no punches in her confrontation of the issues. She has put an enormous amount of research into this book, and it shows on every page. Testimonials from other ex-members of the cult abound. This book isn’t just one woman’s story, it’s the tale of an entire community coming to grips with what they’ve endured, and in many cases, enabled. The book is clearly written for the Buddhist community, with terminology and references unique to the religion, but its lessons and insights can be relevant for people from all walks of life. Highly recommended for those trapped in abusive situations, as well as those who want to safeguard their minds against falling into similar traps.’Amy Spahn, author
Not just relevant to Rigpa
Though I didn’t quote it in the excerpt above, Ms Jamison mentions in her full review that “As a 20 year practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga, an Indian guru tradition whose own authoritarian abuses were revealed in the wake of #metoo, I was comforted by Newland’s perspective. I recommend this book to every Ashtanga teacher in the world. It’s a difficult, heart-breaking story. It’s potentially triggering. And, it helps clarify the hierarchical nature of silence about abuse in spiritual organizations.’ This shows that the book has relevance beyond that of the Rigpa story. Jaki Perez echoes this point in her review. Her experience was closer to home, and should be familiar to you all here. I’m pleased she found the book helpful.
‘Fallout has been to me an unexpected gift of clarity and compassion. As a survivor of spiritual abuse in Tibetan Buddhism myself, I want to deeply thank Tahlia Newland for making this work available to everyone. It’s based on the Rigpa experience but it applies to all Tibetan Buddhism. To me it’s more than a book, it’s a manual for recovering from this kind of trauma, which is greatly worsened by the response of some Buddhist institutions (FPMT in my case) which, when faced with complaints about their lama’s misconduct, choose to step over an already badly hurt individual in order to harm his or her credibility and in this way protect the institution and the lama’s reputation, which is the source of income for their global business.
If you’ve been in a cult, or have been a victim of spiritual abuse and institutional betrayal, reading Fallout could literally be even better than going to a psychologist, because it will go straight to the point, it will take you step by step through a process of recognizing what you’ve been through, in order to deal with it. I’ve read a section thoroughly every evening, reviewing myself and my own experiences, finally putting into context what happened to me after more than 10 years of painful and forced “letting go”.
It was hard work reviving all this again, and realising how this molestation (by a lama called Dagri “Rinpoche”) and the subsequent slander and isolation when I spoke up destroyed my life at that time. I lost everything. Even though I’ve built a new life for myself, this book allowed me to look back without the feeling of being alone, blamed or misunderstood. Finally all this makes sense and I can put a name on all the past experiences and situations! I can now freely say without any regret “this indeed happened, and it was not my fault; I was right to speak up, and it’s ok not to forgive”.’Dr J Perez
She points out that ‘It was hard work reviving all this again‘, and some readers have told me that they can’t read much at a time for the same reason, but writing the book brought me a sense of closure and has done the same for many others.
On reviews and expectations
You can see more reviews on Amazon both in the customer reviews and the editorial reviews under the description. If you read the book and have spent more than $50 in an Amazon store, I hope you’ll leave a review because it will help the book get to those who might benefit from it. Amazon’s algorithms support books once they have 50 reviews, so every review helps, especially if they’re over 3 stars.
If you do take a look at Amazon, you’ll notice a one star review. There’s actually one in the US shop from someone who seems to think the 8 letter writers committed a crime by not taking Sogyal to court and the other in the UK from a denialist. I’m not surprised or bothered, I always knew that my ‘middle-way’ approach wouldn’t please either of those extremes. I’m use to being bullied by some of those who speak most vehemently against the lamas who bully. I didn’t write the book to denigrate people, I wrote it to help us understand what happened and how to avoid it again. I particularly wanted it to be of use for those who still want Tibetan Buddhist teachings, so if you have a completely negative view of Tibetan Buddhism, this isn’t the book for you.
Not my story, our story
As Ms Jamison says in her review, Fallout is my story, but it’s not about me. It’s about the What Now? group, and I wrote the book as a tribute to the long term members of that group. This quote from the book’s acknowledgements expresses my gratitude to you all. Thank you so much for being there for me and for each other.
Thanks to the eight students who wrote the July 2017 letter to Sogyal Lakar. I am extremely grateful for your courage in exposing the truth, your support of my writing, and your ongoing integrity. Your courage in speaking out freed me from a fog of lies, projections, and ignorance, and gave me the kind of stimulus I needed to reclaim responsibility for my own spiritual path.
Thanks also to all those who participated in the What Now? Facebook group for their ongoing encouragement, kindness, openness, and willingness to deeply examine themselves and the issues raised by abuse in Buddhism. The deep love and respect we have developed for each other through our shared journey are quite remarkable for an online group and is a tribute to the integrity, compassion and wisdom of all of you who remain active in the group to this day. Without you, this book would never have been written. Together we did the research and together we learned all that I report here. Though we haven’t all come to the same conclusions in response to this debacle, the support the group showed for each member’s personal journey never wavered. For that support, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
A particular thank you to those who permitted me to include their comments and those who provided links to references when I couldn’t locate them.
In Sydney on the 28th August?
If you are, I hope you can pop along to the Sydney book launch and say hello. I’ll be talking about how cults can look benign unless you’re aware of just how subtle mental manipulation can be. It’s happening at 6.30 pm at 5 Forbes st, Newtown, and it’s being hosted by the Cult Information and Family Support group.