Who is it that’s Damaging Tibetan Buddhism?

The video below of Khenpo Namdrol speaking about the eight letter writers in the months after the revelations of Sogyal’s abuse of students is being shared on social media again. I listened to the first part of it to see if it was the same teaching, and though back when it was first released, I was horrified at what he said, now I can see even more how these are the words of a cult leader.

Cult tactics

In true cult fashion, Khenpo Namdrol is:

  • Turning the cult members against the ‘whistle blowers’;
  • Demonising whistle-blowers;
  • Making those who revealed the abuse into the enemy;
  • Reinforcing the importance of blind faith and devotion no matter what the guru has done or does;
  • Laying the blame for the bad press and disillusionment of many students on the letter writers – all victims of abuse – not on the abuser;
  • Uses superstition – the belief in demonic forces – to explain something he can’t otherwise explain, i.e. someone of ‘excellent character’ and as ‘having a very good and kind heart’ telling a truth he doesn’t want revealed;
  • Is not concerned about the victims of abuse, only about preserving the reputation of the cult and retaining the leader’s status among the followers;
  • Threatens negative repercussions for those who speak up about the abuse or support those who do;
  • Affirms that cult members are on the right path.

Trigger warning: this video and transcript excerpts may trigger symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder for those abused in Tibetan Buddhist communities. Or it just might make you angry or nauseous!

Lies that twist the perception of the faithful

In this talk – given to Rigpa’s most devoted – he is saying that those who told the truth about Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse’ (as laid out in the Lewis Silkin Independent Investigation Report ) are destroying Tibetan Buddhism.

That was really an attempt to not only just disparage the master, but to try to destroy him, and everything that he’s done.

Rigpa Advisor Khenpo Namdrol

Wrong. It was an attempt to save others from the abuse they suffered and help an organisation to face and hopefully deal sensibly with the skeleton in its closet.

This kind of activity is so completely unnecessary. Why? Because it’s so detrimental to the doctrine. From a spiritual point of view it goes against every aspect of Dharma. And from a worldly point of view it is so disrespectful and unnecessary and also instilling doubt and wrong view in the minds of so many disciples unnecessarily, to the point where they may even turn their minds away from the Dharma for good.

Rigpa Advisor Khenpo Namdrol

Note that the ‘kind of activity’ he’s talking about here is writing and distributing the letter that exposed Sogyal’s abuse, not Sogyal’s behaviour!

But isn’t it Sogyal’s activity, not the truth tellers that is ‘so completely unnecessary’, ‘goes against every aspect of Dharma’, ‘instils doubt’ and ‘turns people’s minds away from the dharma for good’?

He thinks that speaking out about abuse is going against ‘every aspect of dharma’. But what sort of ‘dharma’ is he referring to here that speaking the truth is going against? It may be Tibetan, but how is it Buddhism when it goes against the Buddha’s words.

Conquer dishonesty with truth.

The Buddha. Dhammapada, verse 223

The real issue here, that this man and others like him conveniently sidestep in their rush to keep the faithful paying their bills and shore up the reputation of their religion, is the depravity of a guru. Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar has caused many people such trauma that they suffer complex post traumatic stress disorder that is still affecting their health many years after their abuse. So if we’re talking about dharma, then what about the very foundation of the Buddha’s teachings – to do no harm? How is Sogyal’s abuse following that Buddhist ethic? And how does Khenpo Namdrol’s words not harm victims of abuse even further? And how is trying to keep people silent and obedient by threatening them with negative repercussions helping them?

“One is not called noble who harms living beings. By not harming living beings one is called noble.”

The Buddha . The Dhammapada, Verse 270

So who exactly is damaging Tibetan Buddhism?

Anyone who isn’t under the sway of a Tibetan Buddhist cult can see that the people who are damaging Tibetan Buddhism and turning people away from the dharma, not to mention splitting sanghas, are the abusive gurus. Not those who speak the truth about their experience in these cults.

Those who speak up about the abuse are clearing the puss from an infection that has been left to spread and rot the heart of the TB religion. The sickness cannot be healed until it is first revealed and acknowledged. Only then can the sickness be treated and eradicated. And if the lamas cannot see that sickness for what it is – sick – and help to eradicate it, then they are part of the problem. They are contributing to the downfall of TB much more than the truth tellers.

What Khenpo Namdrol doesn’t understand is how this very speech is turning hundreds of people away from his and Rigpa’s version of the dharma. The only good thing about it is that we can see it – thanks to those who keep posting it on You Tube when Rigpa takes it down – so we’re under no illusions as to what the Rigpa faithful believe.

And why would Rigpa keep taking that video down unless they realised how damaging it is? And if they realise that it’s damaging (if only to their image), then why is Khenpo Namdrol one of their ‘spiritual advisers’? He’s one of three – Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (DZK), Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche and Khenchen Namdrol. Haven’t they just replaced one guru with the kinds of beliefs that enabled abuse with three of them?

What’s happening here is that people are waking up to the truth that Tibetan Buddhism in its most fundamentalist form (Rigpa for example) does not not match its public reputation (and it’s own teachings) of a religion of love, compassion and wisdom. The challenge is for the lamas to clean up their act. They can resurrect their reputation, but only if they have the courage (as HHDL does) to step outside of their cultural restrictions and make it clear that there is no place for abuse in vajrayana. They need to say that even though ‘crazy wisdom’ was accepted in the past, it is no longer appropriate and should be abandoned as a ‘teaching method’.

The lamas silence, their general reticence to say anything on the matter of abuse, is also damaging the religion.

Different rules for gurus and students

Khenpo Namdrol says that writing the letter was ‘nothing but negative. And so it is just the poorest choice they could have made, forever. ‘ Later he reminds the students of the repercussions of doing something negative, that they will have to face the negative consequences, but what about Sogyal and the other abusive lamas. Isn’t this true of them also, that negative actions will have negative results? So why do lamas like Khenpo Namdrol think it’s okay for lamas to behave badly? Oh, that’s right, if they’re realised masters (and the assumption from lamas appears to be that all other lamas are realised), they’re supposed to be ‘beyond karma’ and unable to cause harm. But even if that is true of someone like Sogyal, hitting someone will still cause harm if the person hit is not also ‘beyond karma’. A truly realised person would recognise this and out of compassion would not hurt that person. I look into this in more detail in my book Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism.


So always try to be in harmony with whatever Dharma says and never go off track just following your own whims or the customs of modern society.

Khenpo Namdrol

What about ‘just following the whims or customs’ of an ancient feudal society? Buddhism didn’t originate in Tibet. This is just another way of trying to keep the status quo. It’s also a put down of modern society and suggests that any attempt to make changes, like getting rid of abuse from the religion, is a ‘whim’ that has no value.

What to believe

This is not a doctrine that’s new. This is thousands of years old. It is time-tested material. It delivers liberation to countless practitioners and has actually cultivated countless realized accomplished masters and scholars. We can have confidence in every single word of this doctrine.

Khenpo Namdrol

Look at the list of cult tactics at the start of this article. How can we can have confidence in anyone who blatantly uses such tactics and shows no compassion for victims? Perhaps countless practitioners did attain realisation with the TB ‘doctrine’ while being abused in a cult environment, but that doesn’t mean that the cult parts of the religion are necessary for that attainment. Perhaps Tibetans did respond to slavery and violent methods of ego ‘crushing’ but those ‘methods’ won’t work on the majority of Westerners. The results I’ve seen are complex PTSD, crushed self-esteem and an enormous amount of confusion – not due to someone exposing the truth, but due to a teacher who abused them and a religion that, at least in this fundamentalist version, enables such abuse – and still does, despite their codes of conduct.

‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.”
When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering” — then you should abandon them .’

The Buddha. Kalamatta Sutta.

So who is really destroying the religion? Those who follow the Buddha’s advice and that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by speaking the truth and evaluating everything carefully, or those who follow this fundamentalist version of Tibetan Buddhism in which true dharma has been overshadowed by cult behaviour?

And what about the audience?

This talk was given to Rigpa dzogchen students, and at the end, they clap, enthusiastically. Why? Because the cult tactics I mentioned at the start of this article work to keep the faithful faithful. They must have felt very reassured to hear this talk, to know that they don’t have to examine their beliefs because the letter writers were wrong to do what they did and they are right to just carry on as usual. But there is nothing dharmic about manipulating people like this. Leaders in all destructive cults use the same tactics.

I don’t doubt that Khenpo Namdro thinks he’s doing the right thing, and if he has any idea that he’s manipulating people, then he’ll be thinking it’s all for a good cause – the protection of his religion. What a pity it’s doing the exact opposite.

38 Replies to “Who is it that’s Damaging Tibetan Buddhism?”

  1. It’s really sad and pathetic. What we’re seeing is a man from an indigenous culture that was torn from its roots who seems to think that he’s still in the 11th or 12 century. I wonder if it ever occurred to him to question why two people who he thought were good hearted would speak out in this way?

    Let’s not upset the balance of power, let’s not require our teachers to follow basic ethical guidelines. Don’t question the power structure or else you’ll experience negative karma, if not in this life than in a future life. Seriously?

    We all left this behind along with burning witches somewhere in the late 1600’s.

    There is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for the female translator. Are you afraid of loosing your status as a dakini that relies on the approval of these archaic [offensive word removed by moderator]?

      1. ” “The notion that Vajrayana is male-oriented is mistaken.” Sangye Khandro

        True, fundamentalistic misunderstanding of Dharma is free of genderbound effects.

        What a pity she didnt ever serve as a haremscerf to Sogyal or other “Lamas” like Sogyal.

      2. The translator’s job, however, is just to translate, so I don’t blame her for that. I suppose she could have at least looked uncomfortable, though.

        1. Good point, Tahlia. Translators can be a lot like lawyers in that respect — they’ll have anyone for a client, and will represent them as faithfully and accurately as they can. I just think that conscience should override the demands of professional duty at some point.

          1. I think its different if you are a Lama yourself, and translating someone supposed to manipulate a crowd towards a given understanding.

            People trust the hole story much easier because a female Lama makes it more trustworthy for some.

            It shows how easy a western Lama could be used as tool to influence people.
            Thats how Rigpa abused plenty of good teachers.

            A good lawyer would not be willing to be used to give an affaire like this a sincere and proper look.

    1. To “question why two people who he thought were good hearted would speak out in this way” would need curiosity and openness and a lack of cultural pride. These attitudes are most often missing among Tibetans, Rinpoches and tulkus – except for HHDL.

      In general Tibetans see the outside countries as barbarian countries. Similar to the Christian missionaries who “brought the light of Jesus” to Africa but didn’t understand the African culture but saw it as primitive, Tibetan Buddhist teachers seem to think that they “brought the light of the Dharma” to the Western countries but they do not understand our culture.

      The cultural pride prevents an open, curious attitude. I’ve observed Tibetan teachers who preferred to laugh about us Westerners because they didn’t understand certain behaviour or they just attribute spirit possessions or maras working in us instead of opening up to really understand us.

      While it is true, that Tibetans brought the precious Dharma to the West (but not only Tibetans of course) and that this is a great great great, immeasurable, gift – especially the teachings on great compassion, the two bodhcittas etc. – they have their own shadow sides within their culture stemming from a strong patriarchic hierarchy.

      In general there is no understanding or knowledge about trauma, the dynamics of abuse, indoctrination by twisted Buddhist teachings or the damages of abuse. The abuse in their own society and monasteries is been silenced and brushed under the carpets.

      Some of those Tibetans who were traumatised by violence or sexual abuse then export their trauma to the West. And you can see how it continues to be transmitted over generations reading this article by Stuart Lachs: https://info-buddhism.com/Tibetan_Buddhism_21st_Century-Stuart_Lachs.html

      What we really would need is that Tibetans are not only interested in using our technology or material values but that they are also interested in trying to understand our way of thinking and our cultural values, similar, we should try to understand their way of thinking and cultural values.

      I think both cultures need a mutual dialogue seeing each others’ positive and shadow sides and learning from each other. What won’t help is cultural pride or arrogance either on the “Western” or the Tibetan side.

      Hopefully there will be a mind and life conference with HHDL addressing dynamics, damages of abuse and that this will also help Tibetans to face the shadow sides in their own society (trauma, abuse, violence, psychotherapy, Western psychology and sciences) and us to understand Tibetans better and to see our shadow sides.

      Trauma research is only 50 years old – its rather new. Nevertheless, the question is also if Tibetans open up and overcome their lack of knowledge about it and using the knowledge there is to make their own society safer and to stop ignoring the pain or even shaming survivors of abuse.

      I think it’s fair to say that there are Westerners who look at Tibetan culture with arrogance and a lack of understanding. The same, however, is also true for many Tibetans (except HHDL). Westerners, moreover, tend towards to through away the values of their own culture and then adjust into a feudal, less enlightened (aufgeklärten), highly patriarchal, hierarchical, abuse denying society in which criticism is a taboo and silence about abuse and protecting abusive lamas is a value.

      We might be at a turning point of Buddhism in the West and it all depends on us all to work together for the better.

      (Pls correct me if you think I am wrong.)

      1. @ Tenpel

        I don’t think you’re wrong as such and I appreciate the motivation behind your comment. Yes, if Buddhism were to develop in a healthy way, everyone involved would need to adopt your kind of open-minded and even-handed approach, but…….I just don’t see how that can happen.

        ( I personally don’t see any great need for Buddhism or any other antiquated faith-based system to survive, but I’ll concede that many people will find that an extreme view. )

        Anyway no matter how much corruption or abuse it harbours, it will survive as long as there are enough people who think they need it to. To prove my point:

        The Catholic Church is based on wine literally becoming the blood of a divine cosmic dad, raising the dead, miracles, visions, virgin birth, and so on, it’s cornered the market in misogyny, setting fire to dissenters and has institutionalized child rape….it’s a pinnacle of nonsense, corruption and depravity but it’s still going strong……so I don’t think Tibetan Buddhism is going to vanish soon.

        This is much deeper than cultural variation or a lack of modern psychological awareness: it’s functional and structural, so where I think you may be too optimistic is in believing that what is unarguably structural endemic corruption is amenable to your modern, rational egalitarian and humane moral outlook.

        This is simply because the basis of all organized religion is a patriarchal power structure, inequality is it’s very nature, it’s driven by control and exploitation….basically a cult, and the two views aren’t just incompatible, they’re diametrically opposite.

        Insincere, superficial cosmetic change as an adaptive strategy is possible, we’re seeing this in Tibetan Buddhism already….but real structural change is impossible because if you remove that structure the benefit for the controlling elite goes with it.

        I can think of no historical examples of a ruling religious, political or social elite voluntarily ceding power and dismantling an abusive structure by reasonable mutual agreement with the people they need to exploit to preserve their privileges.

        Perhaps you can though…..?

        Apologies for my dispiriting belief in the futility of trying to reform religion.

        1. Pete, no one can argue against the picture you draw. Power corrupts, everywhere, and we’re seeing it starkly right now in Tibetan Buddhist communities (and the rest of the world). But optimism is not a bad thing. As an American right now, I find it particularly hard to be optimistic about anything. So I always search for the places where the honest, compassionate human spirit shines out, such as in local American communities who feed their homeless, protect their immigrants and commit to emission-free futures. I try to use the same approach in finding optimism for the future of Buddhism. The kangyur and tengyur are too grounded in reason and decency not to have survival power.

          Tenzin’s point about the need for mutual dialogue is definitely spot on– but there is also the need to look at how the religion itself is being transmitted to the West. It’s only Vajrayana that can easily be distorted to become faith-based– it’s Vajrayana that can become a tantalizing carrot for naive students with no grounding in the basic teachings– it’s Vajrayana that makes the big money– it’s Vajrayana that talks about devotion and samaya– it’s Vajrayana that gives the lamas their power base- it’s Vajrayana that allows for this idea of un-orthodox methods such as crazy wisdom. The rest of the religion demands that individuals reason for themselves, questioning everything with no faith at all until they’ve established something for themselves through investigation.

          For myself, I find a tremendous worth in the teachings of the Buddha and many of the teachers who followed. Others are finding worth right now elsewhere. These problems are demanding a lot of soul searching– but I see cause for optimism in our conversations. Anything we establish for ourselves, through reason and investigation, is our own and can’t be corrupted. The Buddha’s teachings are unique in that they encourage that. And if we build communities of genuine seekers, with a robust willingness to disagree and question, then power structures are immediately undermined. So that’s my idea of optimism.

          1. @ Joanneclark7

            Thank you for such a thoughtful……and thought-provoking reply.

            It’s not that I think it’s a problem to be optimistic at all, and I think you’re lucky to be able to sustain optimism. In fact your attitude is probably much healthier and smarter than mine….I understand it and I’d like to be more optimistic than I am, but I just can’t manage it and to be honest I’m not entirely sure why.

            It’s something I’ve thought about a lot: my wife has a similar attitude to you ( but exclusively in terms of politics, because she wrote Buddhism off a long time ago too ) She believes there is hope and actively works to change things, and we’ve discussed this quite a bit.

            Perhaps it’s to do with disposition and of course intelligence. It’s my belief ( given this is a simplistic and wild generalization ) that women are more intelligent than men in the widest, long-term sense of the term. There are reasons I say this which I won’t go into, but briefly it’s the difference between men being biologically primed by evolution for conflict and violence and women for cooperation. Conflict may have had its uses in prehistoric times on the African savannah but it’s probably going to finish us all off soon.

            Being optimistic is a mind-set that allows for the possibility of things being workable , in this specific case as you suggest, by reason, compromise and cooperation, it has far more potential than saying for example, as I do: “Oh, you know it’s useless, nothing’s going to change, it’s too fucked up already.”

            I suppose I look at it this way precisely because Tibetan Buddhism is such an overwhelmingly male organisation.

            I’ll admit that even my attitude towards it is male: it’s one of rejection, criticism, logical deconstruction, ridicule and negation….by implication I don’t care if it disappears forever…..so to be honest, that’s also conflictual.

            You make a distinction that Vajrayana, (not just male but positively macho) is more problematic than the form of Buddhism you and many others follow. My experience of other forms is slight but I suspect you’re correct.

            You talk in terms of reason, investigation, discussion, and humanitarian, egalitarian communities……based on mutually agreed, informed consent and cooperation: so yes, if you can do this and bypass the usual top-down male, hierarchical system that has underpinned Buddhism since its inception, then it might work, but that modern conception of humanity and our place on the planet is now far more advanced and sophisticated than anything in Buddhism, Vajrayana or otherwise.

            That’s not surprising because 2,500 years ago humanity simply didn’t understand as much as it does now. For almost all of that time women didn’t get to participate much in decision making and as far as organised religion is concerned……their input has been almost nil.

            Which, from my point of view, is one of the main reasons why it is so fucked up and likely to remain so.

            It’s telling that in the current upheavals in Buddhism, it’s mostly women that have been the prime movers, the agents of change…..and they’ve been the greatest victims, but now in our society they have a voice, even in Tibetan Buddhism, although that isn’t something the hierarchy expects or wants, and there are still plenty of these idiot lamas trying to supress and demean women in various ways…..and I suspect they always will, given the kind of twisted upbringing they have.

            Perhaps you’re right and there is hope, but I think it can only happen if Buddhism is ‘feminized’ in the sense that equality is given priority.

            I’ve no idea how the product of two and a half millennia of patriarchy propped up by obscurantism could be amenable to that.

            But I’m being pessimistic of course.

                    1. Ok Mary, I’ve got it now, ( Dominique had to remind me.) You know what they say: “If you can recall 2010 clearly you probably weren’t there….and I’m not sure I was.

        2. Ah, yes. And perhaps the idealism is still a remnant of our hope that there might be something more enlightened in this tradition that we had such high hopes for. I tend to waver between the hopeless idealist and the pragmatic realist on this, but I don’t think there’ll be any change without public pressure. When Western disenchantment hits their back pocket, then they might be willing to take a closer look at the issues drying up their cash cow. I suspect however, that any change would be purely cosmetic, as in Rigpa, with codes of conduct that mean nothing because they still think that ‘crazy wisdom’ is both valid and acceptable.

      2. I totally agree. There needs to be a coming together of Westerners and Tibetans to work out what is of core importance to the vajrayana and what are harmful practices that can be done away with. Our attempts at communication may have been clumsy and lacking in cultural sensitivity, but we did reach out and open the way for some discussion only to hit an unmoving wall of silence. Even when DZK allowed us to ask him questions, he misunderstood my points, then mocked me publicly without any discussion with me despite me asking for a Skype session. If there is no willingness on the part of the lamas to even talk about this, then what can we do? Personally, because of this lack of engagement on their part (apart from HHDL and MR), I think it’s up to the Westerners to do the necessary renovations to the religion. The Tibetans, by refusing to engage on the matter of abuse, are simply making themselves obsolete in their own religion.

      3. If we have to understand the Tibetan culture, why is it that hardly any Tibetan or even no Tibetan was a member of Rigpa? Are the Lama’s a certain elite class? So is it only the culture of the Lama’s and not of the entire Tibetan population?

  2. Yes, we watched it years ago and it was bad– but we thought surely Rigpa administrators would be ashamed of such an outlook and that would spur them towards some sort of reform progress.

    We watch it today and it’s worse than bad because that didn’t happen, Rigpa just took the video down from youtube and nothing from much within Tibetan Buddhist culture is shifting, and now we have FPMT, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist organization in the West, with its director, Lama Zopa, expressing views that are sadly similar.

    So sad to watch this in that context.

  3. Basically, the whole thing is falling apart. We are now just parting the curtain and seeing that the “Wizard of Oz” (or any lama you care to put in that slot) is just a pathetic old man putting on a show. In other words, Tibetan Buddhism isn’t nearly as impressive as it’s Hollywood inspired image of glitz and glamour. Remove those shiny, fairy tale stories of saints and totally holy (human) beings and you’ve got a bunch of mentally disturbed aristocrats trying to rebuild the empire they lost, (through their own carelessness). I’m not saying that the suffering of many Tibetans wasn’t a tragedy, but the elitists are trying to play on everyone’s sympathy and exploit the suffering of others for their own gain. It’s time we wake up, take our own (Western) culture back, and send them packing back to India, or wherever they came from.

  4. Its really important in this version of Tibetan Buddhism, or perhaps in all of Tibetan Buddhism really that if a lama does anything bad it should not be shared to protect the image of Tibetan Buddhism. Yet, the image becomes another festering pit of corruption, deception and destroying student after student in the name of whitewashing and protecting a lama. Apparently the texts say real lamas are rare, but these teachers say any crackpot that has any success as a lama must be consider real. Sounds more like a sales force protecting their product. Lawyers protecting image.

  5. I love the names, they’re getting better : “Don’t give a shit anymore” and ” I have already moved on”….. priceless.

    Anyway, good article Tahlia.

    Ah, I remember the old days when I used to get accused of single-handedly trying to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, and I used to try and explain: “No, they’re doing that very effectively themselves and I’m just pointing it out.”

    Maybe I should change my name to “I told you so” …….but it’s just not as good as “don’t give a shit anymore”.

    1. LOL. I also don’t really give a shit anymore. But sometimes something like this just jumps out of somewhere, inspiration strikes, and all else is shunted aside until what needs to be expressed is out there. I guess I just want people to have their eyes open when they meet TB, and for that, these things need to remain in the public domain.

  6. Not only is this speech highly manipulative and shameful – an attempt to get back control over the narrative that Sogyal Lakar is a holy being (and by extension that all Tibetan masters are holy and enlightened and students are just stupid followers who have to obey or go to hell) – as a matter of fact, lay people cannot cause a schism in a Sangha – one of the 5 heinous crimes.

    A schism in the Sangha that is a heinous crime (leading to immediate retribution of rebirth in the hell) can only be done at the time of a founder Buddha (Buddha Shakyamuni in our age). Moreover, a schism in the Sangha refers only to order members (ordained people). It requires at least 8 fully ordained monks / nuns in one ordained Sangha body who split in two groups over a quarrel and form two separate Sangha bodies.

    The threat of Sangha devision is a common Buddhist cult tactic to silence people and make them fearful to utter valid criticism that the leadership wants to repress.
    For some details see here (Geshe Rabten and Theravada sources): https://info-buddhism.com/sangha_schism.html

    1. @ Tenpel
      Your take on the motivation of all the lamas who were ( and still are ) complicit with Sogyal is interesting.

      Since his behaviour was widely known from early on even by the likes of Dilgo Khyentse, I was inclined to think that they were all just after the cash, indifferent to the victims and didn’t want to rock the boat.

      I haven’t ever thought about it in those terms but I think you’re right about their contempt for ordinary students and their concern that criticism of any one lama might start a trend and eventually lead to students questioning the whole edifice.

      It’s ironic, because it was partly their complicity and silence that gave Sogyal the freedom and licence to go so obviously barking mad for so long that even sincere and devoted students eventually found it impossible to ignore…….and then precisely what those lamas feared happened anyway, probably in a more spectacular way than if they’d made some effort to reign him in years ago .

      Although without the complete public censure of someone of the Dalai Lama’s stature, along with others, even that’s not a certainty…….and that, as we know, never happened.

      In the early days Sogyal used to make a huge song and dance about his supposedly unshakeable devotion to Dudjom Rinpoche…….until the latter suggested he curb his behaviour, then his great devotion suddenly evaporated and the name of his centre was abruptly re-branded to dissociate it from Dudjom and proclaim it was under new management.

      This was hardly known about at the time, but much later I remember him telling a very small group of us that Dudjom had offered him his daughters for sex……..I’m convinced Sogyal invented this for his own twisted purposes: trying to re-write history to convince us that his being a massive pervert was part of the tradition……( see, it’s ok, even the head of the Nyingma pimped out his own daughters to me. )

      When I met Dudjom he was getting on and a bit frail, he seemed very kind and cheerful, but quite out of it: they used to wheel him in, he’d teach until somebody told him it was time to stop. Everybody adored him, he was what you’d expect a proper teacher to be.

      I also met his wife and his daughters and I really don’t believe a word of Sogyal’s story.

      So Sogyal not only engineered a deliberate schism with one of his supposed root teachers, who was also the head of his tradition, and one of the most revered lamas alive, but even went on to spread sleazy stories about the poor old guy after his death. Nasty stuff.

      How’s that for ‘Samaya’?

    2. Thanks for that clarification. I wonder then, does Khenpo Namdrol not know his dharma as well as he and his faithful students think he does or is he knowingly ignoring the true meaning in order to use it as a fear tactic? Either way is disturbing.

  7. If Tibetan Buddhist lamas / teachers were to admit to their behaviour or indeed any questionable behaviour in any part of TB it would be like an alcoholic standing up and saying ‘I am an alcoholic’. The first person they have to admit it to is themselves. That has a snowballs chance in the hot hells they talk about!

    1. I think you had the good sense to leave the cult around the time I was starting a 15-year stretch, but we did meet briefly in Devon, maybe in 2010 perhaps. You might not remember, I’ve no salient features except perhaps a chameleon-like ability to merge into the background.

      1. You are right Pete I don’t remember meeting you in Devon in 2010. What was the occasion? I lived in Bristol then. Now I live in Devon.

  8. I’ve watched this in the past, carefully, all the way through, with growing disbelief. Now I just can’t bear to watch it again. Ugh. Urrghhh. I might throw up. Even find the look of him repulsive, which is just a reflection of how disgusting I find the whole thing. How much of what he says does he believe, and how much is just manipulative? Thanks for the great breakdown of what is going on here. I’m just so grateful and glad that I walked away from Rigpa and have turned my back on all the twisted cultish things disguised as buddhist. So very sad that TB went down that road, but we’re used to it now. It’s a sad and sick-making fact. Ugh. I think I may never be able to view this vid again, but its message is still imprinted in my mind really clearly.

  9. As far as I know there were never any ethnic Tibetan students in Rigpa. Pete and others would be able to confirm this. Sogyal was, however quite popular in Bhutan. In contrast, lots of Tibetans came to Chogyal Namkhai Norbu’s teachings. On one occasion he gave an especially powerful exegesis, which included references to tigles. As we left the Merigar temple a hailstorm blew up, with gazillions of tiny white balls cascading down on us. The Tibetans ran out into it, dancing gleefully and shouting “tigles”. Even somewhat over-excitable Italians were bemused by this, while us dour Brits, Germans, Dutch etc: stood by unmoved. An example of cultural dissonance I think. Also an example of Tibetan acceptance that physical manifestations like hailstorms, rainbows etc; arise naturally around accomplished yogi/inis.

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