Why Rigpa Students Find it Hard to Challenge Sogyal Rinpoche’s Abuse

When Rigpa students study Ngondro, they are indoctrinated with teachings that make it very difficult for them to challenge their teacher’s abusive behaviour. Below are some of the key ‘teachings’ that supported the idea that we had to do whatever Sogyal asked of us and that everything he did, even if it didn’t ‘appear’ to be in accord with the dharma was for our benefit. These ideas were drummed into our heads through daily repetition. Those of us who did our 100,000 recitations of the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro Guru Yoga were well and truly brainwashed into believing that following these ideas would bring us to enlightenment.

Problematic beliefs

The quotes and page references below are from: A Guide To The Practice Of Ngöndro – The Brief Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro and the Longchen Nyingtik Ngöndro with commentaries and guidance on how to practise them. 2nd edition – January 2007, published by Rigpa.
“You should rely upon your vajra lama, the ultimate master whose mind is emptiness and compassion and who accomplishes the benefit of self and others, cherishing him as though he were your very eyes. Follow his instructions to the letter, and take to heart the profound practices he gives, not just now and then, but with diligent and constant application. Practise with unflagging diligence for as long as you live. Pray that you may become worthy of the transmission of his profound wisdom mind, so that your realization becomes indivisible from his.” Commentary Page 210
“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.” In this respect, you should remember the story of Captain Compassionate Heart killing Black Spearman, and Brahmin Lover of the Stars forsaking his vow of chastity for the brahmin girl.”  Commentary Page 221. (Note 101: See The Words of My Perfect Teacher (revised ed.), p. 125 – Read it here. It explains why negative actions performed by a Bodhisattva are in fact positive, in some circumstances)
“May I rely upon my vajra lama meaningfully,
as though he were my very eyes,
Following his instructions to the letter,
and taking to heart the profound practices he gives,
Not just now and then, but with diligent and
constant application,
May I become worthy of the transmission
of his profound wisdom mind!”
(Root text. Page 273)
“Towards the lifestyle and activity of the lama,
May wrong view not arise for even an instant, and
May I see whatever he does as a teaching for me.
Through such devotion, may his blessing inspire
and fill my mind!”
(Root text. Page 278)
Wrong view here refers to seeing the teacher as an ordinary being. You can see how steeped in blind devotion this tradition is.
If the teacher was actually enlightened, or even just a decent human being who actually cared about his students, these ideas wouldn’t be so harmful, and in terms of the pure perception teachings of Vajrayana might even be helpful for students who truly understand what is meant by pure perception – very few do, though! HH Dalai Lama said in Dharamsala in 1993 about the practice of seeing one’s lama as a Buddha, “If it is misunderstood, and thus gives the guru free license, it is like poison, destroying the teachings, the guru, and the disciple.”
The assumption that a lama is worthy of the responsibility of being a guru is unrealistic these days and giving him or her this kind of trust is just not healthy. And in a situation where the lama is only concerned with his own worldly success and gratification, these ideas make a community a destructive cult.
If you think the ‘destructive cult’ label is a bit extreme, take a look at this quote from the Zindri, which you can find on page 261 f. (printed version) under chapter (1) Common Activities (of the teacher). The whole chapter is very revealing. It culminates in the statement:
“His (the teacher´s) charisma may attract men and women alike, but even if he were to seduce a hundred girls daily, see it as the activity of bringing under control. And when he causes trouble, stirring up disputes and so on, even if he slaughters hundreds of animals every day, regard this as the activity of fierce subduing.”
In other words, your teacher can do what he likes and you have to see it all as good! This is the kind of belief that fosters abusive cults – beliefs that put the leader above norms of ethical behaviour. Maybe all Tibetan Buddhist sanghas were actually cults according to our present understanding of the term. I have it on good authority that there is no word for destructive cult in Tibetan, not in terms of a lama and community that is controlling and manipulative. Why is that? I bet it’s not because all their lamas were perfect! More likely it’s because Tibetans were well and truly indoctrinated in this way of thinking. Not so in the West. Here we call a spade a spade, and an abuser an abuser – that is, if we’re not brainwashed into thinking the abuse is enlightened activity.

Is The Words of My Perfect Teacher a relevant text for modern times?

The Words of My Perfect Teacher and The Zindri, a commentary on it, are the two core texts of Rigpa along with The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and both books make it very clear that once you’ve taken a teacher as your Vajra master you have to do what he or she says, see them as a Buddha, see everything they do as enlightened activity, and never criticise. These teachings were often emphasised in Rigpa. Pure perception was the whole purpose of vajrayana, we were told, and to many people that meant actually thinking that Sogyal was really enlightened. They forgot that pure perception means seeing everyone as enlightened, yourself included, not just the teacher!
The trouble with following these books comes if these aspects are stressed over other sections that moderate them, and in Rigpa, the section on the qualifications of the teacher ( p 138 – 143) was rarely mentioned. Why? Because our teacher clearly did not meet the qualifications!

“He should be pure, never having contravened any of the commitments or prohibitions related to the three types of vow … He should be learned and not lacking in knowledge of the tantras, sutras and shastras. Towards the vast multitude of beings, his heart should be so suffused with compassion that he loves each one like his only child. He should be well-versed in the practices … He should have actualised all the extraordinary qualities of liberation and realization in himself by experiencing the meaning of the teachings. He should be generous, his language should be pleasant. He should teach each individual according to that person’s needs and he should act in accordance with what he teaches …”
Later Patrul Rinpoche says, “Not having many disturbing negative emotions and thoughts, he should be calm and disciplined.”

Sogyal’s negative emotions weren’t hidden; most people who went to a Rigpa retreat saw him yelling at his students, sometimes sending them into tears.
I remember being disturbed at just how much Sogyal didn’t fit the list of qualifications, but I ignored my concerns because I’d already accepted him as my teacher and been told that since he’d given me an introduction to the nature of mind I was now ‘stuck with him as my teacher’. What I failed to realise is that since he didn’t meet the requirements of a qualified teacher, the instructions for following a teacher simply didn’t apply.
No emphasis was given in Rigpa to the section on choosing a teacher – we read the section through as part of our Ngondro study, but that was the extent of it. Whereas we said the above passages daily. But those instructions ONLY apply to a student of someone who meets the requirements for a qualified teacher as laid out in the WMPT, and since Sogyal does not meet those qualifications, the rest of the book isn’t applicable to him or his students.
The whole book is based on being a student of a perfect teacher, not an imperfect one!
I don’t think this text is appropriate in an age where, in the words of the book in question, “All the qualities complete according to purest dharma are hard to find in these decadent times.” As we’ve seen in Rigpa, the result of applying these teachings to an imperfect teacher can be an abusive cult, and the numbers of lamas accused of similar behaviour makes it quite clear that we cannot blindly trust that any of them have our best interests at heart. Some do, yes, but we need to be very sure before we take them as our Vajra guru, and I suggest that, even then, we never ever give up our right to say, “No,” our right to criticise, and our discernment in ascertaining what is harmful and what is helpful.  Any teacher who asks you to give up those rights is one to avoid, but be careful, some teachers will say one thing in public and expect something else in private.

Is knowledge a sufficient qualification?

Since Sogyal never did Buddhist high school, his lack of classic Buddhist studies is an obvious place where he lacks the necessary qualifications for the instructions in the book to have any relevance to him or his students, but just because a lama has done his Buddhist training doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to be a vajra master. Why? Because the requirement is that the teacher’s “heart should be so suffused with compassion that he loves each one like his only child”, and “He should have actualised all the extraordinary qualities of liberation and realization in himself.” In other words, knowledge is not enough. Compassion and realisation are necessary attributes of a true Vajra master. Without those two qualities knowledge can be easily manipulated to meet the teacher’s agenda.
In light of this, it’s clear that any teacher who shows no compassion for those traumatised by their guru’s behaviour is not worthy of your devotion because they lack the necessary compassion. Any guru that protects their religion over and above protecting and caring for those damaged by their religion is not a qualified teacher. Let’s be clear on this: having a Buddhist degree, tulku status, a sharp mind, a quick wit, an entertaining manner and enthusiastic followers is not the compassion and wisdom required to meet the definition of a qualified Vajrayana teacher.
And it goes without saying that anyone who abuses anyone doesn’t meet the requirement for wisdom and compassion either – Chogyam Trungpa and the Sakyong included.

“On the level of our personal spiritual practice, it is important to have faith in and reverence for our guru and to see that person in a positive light in order to make spiritual progress. But on the level of general Buddhism in society, seeing all actions of our teacher as perfect is like poison and can be misused. This attitude spoils our entire teachings by giving teachers a free hand to take undue advantage. If faith were sufficient to gain realizations, there would be no need for qualified teachers.” HH Dalai Lama. Dharamsala 1993

What do you think?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret  What Now 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.
People from other sanghas can join the  Beyond the Temple Facebook Group . It’s a support group for anyone who has left their Buddhist sangha after hearing revelations of abuse by their teacher or after experiencing such abuse. It’s for people who see ethical behaviour, love, compassion and introspection as the core of their spiritual path. The focus is not on the abuses, but on ourselves and our spiritual life as we recover from our experience of spiritual abuse 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.
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67 Replies to “Why Rigpa Students Find it Hard to Challenge Sogyal Rinpoche’s Abuse”

  1. The ngondro is called four foundations in the other school(s) including the original Bonpos, probably borrowed off Buddhism to keep them on-streams with ancient nyingmas, and all follow the same basic stricture of Refuge/Bodhichita (Tibetan they add prostration, kept them warm!), Purification, Manadela Offering and Guru Yoga; so whoever devised these practices the the first instance as le source (not sure in India who or if it came from Hindu practice, does anyone really know?) had the motivation that these would assist people to ‘Enlightenment’, although the Longchen Nyingtik took these as a main practice the others used jost a preliminary to higher yogas; Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Kagyu-pa master Gampopa is similar to WoMPT where it discuss many ‘hell’ type realms to motivate monks & lamas.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngöndro

  2. Very well written article!
    “Maybe all Tibetan Buddhist sanghas were actually cults according to our present understanding of the term.”
    That may be true, since I have heard these same teachings in ALL Tibetan Buddhist groups, regardless of the teacher or lineage. They are all the same in their instructions about guru devotion.
    What you say about how those instructions can’t apply in a situation where the teacher isn’t prefect because the instructions are meant for students who actually have a perfect Vajra master. The problem is: who gets to decide who is “prefect” and why? Since nobody can see into the mind of a teacher, how do we know that ANY of them are perfect? Also, even if a teacher says what we want to hear in public, how do we know what they might do in private? For example, the Dalai Lama says what we want to hear in public, but how do we know what he does in secret? How do we know about Mingyur? We don’t know what ANY of them do, and the few people who are close in their inner circles would never tell us if they did anything wrong, so how does one judge even a teacher who SEEMS perfect without having access to them on a personal level, or being able to see inside their heads?

    1. Yes, this is a real problem, which is why the whole do as you’re told and don’t criticize thing basically falls down in a situation where the teachers in general can’t be trusted. As Mingyur says in his book on Ngondro, we should never give up our discernment.

  3. Also, maybe everything a teacher does might have sincere, good intentions behind it, but they can still be harmful if applied. For example, a teacher might sincerely believe that killing someone might save them from committing some murder and going to hell in the future, but that deosn’t make it a good action. He could be insane even if he sincerely believed he was doing the right thing. (This is just a hypothetical example.) So, my point is that even if we looked inside a teacher’s head and saw that they had a good heart, that doesn’t mean they always do what is right, even if they think they have a good motivation.
    So, then what, lol? 😀

  4. Just another randim thought, that none of these tulku childrens has much choice to be chossen, apart from maybe a parent promoting & those that apparently they declared to a parent they were e.g. Karma-pa (apparently 17th, but there were/are two competing lamas in 3 & 1 group to choose there favourite) which split the sanghas into 2 evetually, so we should have some compassion for them too.
    Even did DalaiLama have choice he were 14th?
    There are fantastic stories of yogis flying though air that always found a bit incredulous, but all nowaday is just a natural phenomena rainbow when master present pointed as some sort of miracullous occrence; and why they think Earthquake caused by master passing, that’s not too good of him/her to poor people in area if really so!
    Irony that also two big books Trung-pa’s ‘Cutting through Spiritual Materialism’ and SL’s TBLD attracted so many people to dharma but they turn out as big alleged by the 8 for later ‘abuser’ of close disciples; maybe that is they way of Dzogchen/Maha-Ati?

  5. I think your analysis is useful, but it would be helpful if you actually knew what you were talking about with Chogyam Trungpa. Lumping him with Sogyal R or the Sakyong shows you had little if any direct experience of him.

    1. @Michael,
      Based on a story I heard (from someone who knew him personally) about Trungpa abusing a cat, he sounds like a sadistic person to me, and certainly FAR from enlightened. Anyone who would seek out an innocent animal to abuse on purpose is not someone I would want to have any experience with. I have also heard he abused other animals as well. Also, other stories about him show that he was abusive, (like when he had his goons drag that poor couple from their room and had them stripped naked at a drunken party during his so called “retreat”.) All of the things I have heard about him make me wince. Also, how can one say that someone who died of alcohol poisoning was enlightened? He had drug/alcohol issues going WAY beyond just taking a few drinks, or a snort or two, to show people not to be too hung up on their morals, etc.
      Also, Sogyal is also horrible an abusive. Tying a rope around a disabled woman’s neck and making her bray like a donkey while leading her around naked? What kind of SICK thing to do do a person? And people standing around watching this, and somehow rationalizing that he is a “crazy wisdom” buddha? Sounds like a sick cult to me!

      1. @KDD,
        He would know if he has any common sense. It doesn’t take a psychic or a rocket scientist to deduce that someone who treats beings the way Trungpa did isn’t an enlightened being, lol!

    2. Recall reading ‘Born in Tibet’ when Trung-pa re-counted being put into dark places by certain masters. He said (or joked, if recall right if my English ok) he’d be re-born as a car plant factory worker in USA, but it seems TaiSitu recognised a boy from Pawo Derge.
      Sogyla R mentioned a few times how his masters would hit him over the head with chairs if they got scriptures wrong; if that was and is the brutal atmosphear to bring up children tulku no wonder the results?

      1. @KDD,
        Oh, yes they were abused as kids, horribly. It’s no wonder they turned out to be a mess. That doesn’t excuse their behavior though, especially if we are talking about spiritual teachers. Even though it’s too bad that kids are treated that way, and one could feel compassion for them and what they endured as kids, they aren’t fit to be spiritual teachers. Who wants a teacher who belongs in a psychiatric clinic and has serious mental issues? They dare lecture the West on finding happiness! A the Buddha himself said, “Tame yourself before trying to tame others.” Or one could use the more commonly used phrased “Physician, heal thyself.”

    3. I don’t need direct experience of him. It’s been well documented that he was an alcoholic and a womanizer and the revelation that he tortured a cat and had a couple stripped naked against their will at a party are not the behaviour of anyone I consider worthy of the role of spiritual master no matter how great I thought his books were. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your experience of him was the same for everyone. Lots of Rigpa folk only saw the good side of Sogyal, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a bad side.

      1. @Moonfire,
        I agree with you about Trungpa.
        Apparently Trungpa was a serial cat abuser, so I’m sorry to say it didn’t just happen once. I just read another story where the witness says he picked up a cat by the tail and threw it across the yard. Ugh! He said his motive was because cats have the tendency to be reborn in hell, so I guess Trungpa thought that was some kind of “purification” practice. Even if Trungpa thought that was the “compassionate” thing to do, it still makes him insane. I don’t care if cats cried at the Buddha’s funeral or not! That gives NO ONE the excuse to abuse them! The funeral story is just a myth anyway, but even if it were true, there is still no excuse. It’s just another insane religious stupidity that is no better than thinking it’s for a woman’s “own good” if she’s tortured on the rack to “purify” her soul to chase out “devils” from her body, etc. (Just referring to stupid “Christian” Medieval beliefs that have thankfully been discarded, at least in the West.) Do people really want to go back to that? Do we really want to live in a society where people believe that the only way to “purify” karma is to torture other beings, human or animal? I think it’s abhorrent! Why didn’t anyone ever try to stop Trungpa from torturing cats, or any other being he saw fit to torture? That part is almost more disturbing than Trungpa himself. The fact that so many people witnessed this stuff (happening more than once) and did nothing!

        1. I’m not trying to guilt trip anybody. I understand that people are in a kind of trance state and they think the guru/leader is wonderful no matter what they do. (Same thing happened with Hitler.) The things they would normally think are bad to do, they would accept if their “master/leader” does it. I just don’t understand WHY this happens in the first place.

  6. Did you meet Trungpa, Sogyal & Sakyong then Michael? Let’s hear your analysis if you met them all?
    For me I didn’t meet CTR as he’d left for USA with his Scottish wife before I got to Samye retreating, but knew his friend Akong at Samye Scotland in the 70s and corresponded with him, sadly he was murdered in China a few years ago (over donation money for Chinese community he helped it was).
    Personally I have read many CTR books and SR would often quote him as a reliable source and many a Rigpa course cite his book material in quotations; but the revelations on sites about CTR & SR seem at odds with their excellent books IMHO.

    1. I often wonder now whether there really is such a thing as “enlightenment” as a final destination or a goal to be attained. Maybe there’s just greater (and lesser) degrees of wakefulness and capacities for kindness and skill in helping others.

      1. Who knows as never knowingly met an enlightened beings (or from dzogchen views we all enlighten but in a clouded illusion of samsara same as dream); the only final destination for all of us is death, and it’s questionable if any part of the ‘you’ project from this body-mind full of millions of other beings survives, except the atoms that have been stars.
        I now question the whole edifice of Buddhism this scenario that Trungpa, Sakyong, Kalu, Segal, und now revealed Sogyal also behind them thankas caused knowing or unknowingly, as some masters says in past when it does come to Western realms as China catalysed by invasion, it essence will destroyed into an empty shell of teaching not represent those of original Buddha.

  7. Surely if SR is eventually hauled into a court in whatever country or several it occurred , then the supporting team as the main players and all the continuing ones that knew about and effectively hid this abuse from new students who were abused in whatever fashion that entailed, are accomplices to such; they gave an authenticity to the role of Rigpa to care for others when it was deficient or did they think it was the Dzogchen way?
    Those who have left the group when it came to light are not accomplices, as they resigned when they found out and have no attributed blame.
    (But I am not a judge, barrister or solicitor).

  8. @KenH,
    Then they might have to arrest all the Tibetan lamas as accomplices, (from all corners of the globe), since they ALL knew about the abuses of SR and continued to hang out with him and endorse him. No lama ever warned anyone about Sogyal specifically, or any other abusive lama specifically. (Yes, the Dalai Lama has talked about abusive lamas in general, and he is practically the only one who said anything during all these years and decades), but did even he ever “warn” anyone to stay away from a specific lama?) No one can say that the high lamas didn’t know about Sogyal’s abuses since people sought them out the “good” teachers for help and told them things, and these teachers were witnesses to things as well, (since they hung out with SR quite often as a personal friend). ALL of them are guilty of covering up to one degree or another! How much cover up is just a matter of degree.
    The same goes for Trungpa too! They ALL knew about him! It’s possible that some of the high lamas didn’t know everything that the abusive lamas were doing but they did know enough to make them complicit in NOT warning people to stay away. This is why I can’t trust any of them because no matter what they say about abusive lamas in general, I don’t think a single one had enough integrity to warn people to stay away from any particular lama. It’s only NOW that the scandal is all over the news that SOME of the lamas (like the Dalai Lama) are suddenly speaking out about Sogyal specifically. But do ANY of them say a word about the man (Trungpa) that gave Sogyal his most inspiration? Nope, not a single word about the lama who continues to inspire all of the “crazy wisdom” lamas. As long as Trungpa is held up by the religious leaders as some kind of exceptional “saint” in this tradition, other lamas will follow in his footsteps, thinking they too can be like him. Students may be able to look at other lamas and think critically, but when it comes to their OWN abusive teacher, a student can always rationalize and say, “well, they are the new Trungpa and they are different,” and find a way to make excuses for it, based on the “crazy wisdom” philosophy.

      1. @Moonfire,
        Every organization has a “grapevine” and those higher up hear things. There is NO way that they all didn’t at least hear something. I’m not saying they necessarily knew everything, but I am totally sure they at least heard enough to know that bad things were going on.

      1. Yep, but he has cognitive dissonance with the whole idea of abuse in a Buddhist setting – so he doesn’t regard it as abuse.

  9. One question I’ve never heard answered is why, knowing what he must have known by then about Sogyal’s behavior, did the Dalai Lama preside so publicly over the inauguration of Lerab Ling with Carla Bruni and the world press in attendance? This gave Sogyal a tremendous boost of legitimacy. Theories, anyone?

    1. IN MID MARCH 2008, A MAJOR TIBETAN UPRISING ERUPTED IN LHASA AND SPREAD TO OTHER TIBETAN REGIONS of China. The Tibet-in-exile government says 220 monks, nuns and other Tibetans died, most of them killed by Chinese soldiers and police suppressing riots and demonstrations. and 7,000 WERE DETAINED and more than 1,000 were injured in the ensuing crackdown. Many Tibetans believe that hundreds if not thousands were killed
      ….
      JULY 2008 FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY TOOK OVER THE EU PRESIDENCY

      [On the Dalai Lama official website – News 2008 : dalai-lama-begins-visit-to-france ]
      Paris, France, 12 AUGUST 2008
      THE DALAI LAMA HAS BEGUN A 12-DAY VISIT TO FRANCE by blessing a Buddhist institute on the edge of Paris.The exiled spiritual Tibetan leader will spend most of the duration of the Olympics in France.
      PLANS TO MEET PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY WERE DROPPED, though the Dalai Lama will meet lawmakers on Wednesday.Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of stirring up unrest in Tibet and warned Mr Sarkozy of “serious consequences” if he met him… etc.

      Dalai Lama Hosts Bruni-Sarkozy At Temple In France August 23, 2008
      LERAB LING TEMPLE, France (Reuters) – THE DALAI LAMA INAUGURATED A BUDDHIST TEMPLE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE ON FRIDAY WITH FRENCH FIRST LADY CARLA BRUNI-SARKOZY AMONG THE GUESTS.
      TIBET’S SPIRITUAL LEADER VISITED FRANCE IN AUGUST AND HAD A MEETING WITH CARLA BRUNI, SARKOZY’S WIFE, AS WELL AS BERNARD KOUCHNER, THE FOREIGN MINISTER.

      27 NOVEMBER 2008 (excerpt of an article in theguardian, by Ian Traynor)
      RELATIONS BETWEEN CHINA AND EUROPE HAVE BEEN FRAUGHT SINCE SARKOZY TOOK OVER THE EU PRESIDENCY IN JULY, his term coinciding with the Beijing Olympics and the aftermath of the Chinese crackdown on unrest in Tibet.
      As EU president, Sarkozy said he was contemplating boycotting the Olympics, although he attended in the end. Last April pro-Tibetan demonstrators disrupted the Olympic torch’s passage through Paris on route to Beijing, and in June the Chinese leadership spurned EU demands that it negotiate with the Dalai Lama.

      MAY 31, 2011
      DALAI LAMA GIVES UP POLITICAL ROLE, remains Tibetan spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama will remain as the spiritual leader of the global Tibetan community. New Delhi (CNN) — The Dalai Lama has formally relinquished his political and administrative powers, a spokesman said Tuesday.
      (I go back to my meditation retreat, 😉)

  10. Plus SR’s previous ‘incarnation’ (he is one of three, the other two have since passed away) called Terton Sogyal, that I’m told was one of the eight letter writers wrote a book about, was the 13th DL’s Dzogchen teacher.
    So there is a strong linkage between 14thDL & SR, maybe that’s the reason he agreed to inaugurate eventually in 2008 (the previous planned time 2006 was cancelled due to DL’s ill health it was said).

    1. @KenH,
      Also, Sogyal is supposedly the reincarnation of the 5th Dalai Lama’s regent, who was also the 6th Dalai Lama’s regent. Interestingly enough, the regent was know for his depraved behavior, lol!

  11. “We have to endure the discordance between imagination and fact. It is better to say, “I am suffering,” than to say, “This landscape is ugly.”
    ― Simone Weil

  12. The view: No truly existing imagination, no truly existing fact – ultimately.
    For the purpose of moving sanely through the world, valid relative truth based on the moral virtues such as non-harming allow us to discern and delineate an ‘ugly landscape’.
    Moral relativism must be dismantled in our culture for it to flourish again. Collectivism (Simone Weil, Marxist) denigrates the rights of the individual in the presence of some more ‘valuable’ amorphous whole/ideal.
    We who have suffered in the ugly landscapes of Rigpa, Shambhala International, Siddharthas Intent or any other such disfunctional and harmful group are now rightly shaking off the false emptiness teachings/moral relativism, shaking off the subservience to a mortal god, listening to ourselves and labelling lucidly the ugliness we saw so in these places; calling it out as wise people have recommended so that there may be recognition, clarity, change.

    1. Hi Rose,
      Thanks for your thoughts. If I read Weil that way, I would feel the same as you.
      My reading of her is the opposite. Instead of focusing on the landscape (collectivism) she brings us home, to ourselves, our suffering.
      I too have “suffered in the ugly landscapes of [the] Rigpa [Organization]… or any other such dysfunctional and harmful groups.” I grew up in such suffering, much worse than anything I’ve heard of within these groups.
      I’m alert to the indicators, especially the early, subtle ones. By the time they reach explicit thresholds we’ve missed much opportunity. Here and now is when we can begin to see the signs.
      Why is it so hard for us to turn toward one another, to listen to and encourage difference in our suffering?
      Thanks,
      Rick

        1. “We’re still struggling with the fallout of his departure. I don’t think the shoe will fully drop until we find a way to be in the same room together. As long as there’s a fear of having him around, there’s a way people don’t understand their part in the situation.”

              1. “I think we have not gone far enough yet. When I read stories in the paper, part of me feels so happy that victims are finding their voices and being heard. Then another part of me quails. We are stigmatizing and demonizing these guys. I feel great sympathy for them, because the norms have changed under their feet. Behavior that was once either shined on or taken very lightly is now sometimes taken as evidence that there’s something essentially wrong with their characters. I see things from a more social point of view, which is that we’re all responsible for creating norms—not just the women who get victimized and not just the guys who get away with something in private. It’s the bystanders, in a sense, who really matter. If the bystanders create a better container for our lives—and in Buddhist communities, articulate and hold people to the precepts—maybe we won’t need to demonize and scapegoat these men so deeply.”

        2. @Rick New,
          “Their roots lie not in individual villainy, but in cultural misunderstandings and hidden emotional wounds.”
          Sorry, but I don’t agree with this. There are some things, (rape, murder, greed, lust for power, sexual abuse), that would be considered bad in any culture and it cannot ever be justified or ‘splained away on the basis of “cultural misunderstanding” or by belittling one culture (the West) and defending another culture (Tibetan). Until people WAKE UP and realize that these “gurus” are corrupt because they have been coddled and worshiped since childhood and they are not healthy adults, nor are they capable of living by what we would consider ‘normal
          ethics, then there won’t be any progress toward ending the cycle of abuse. People keep on enabling it by ‘splaining it away as “cultural misunderstanding” or any other label we care to put on it. Too much power corrupt. It’s as simple as that. You can’t ‘splain away the “guru-master/student-slave” relationship, which came from India, (a culture that did not have any form of human rights, as we know it in modern Western society), and pretend it’s something equal and
          open. There is no way to ‘splain it without deceiving oneself, or others in the process.

  13. I just read an account of a talk Judith Simmer-Brown gave in Boulder to Shambhala community members. http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/judith-simmer-brown-to-distraught-shambhala-members-practice-more-notes-and-transcript/ One of the people who asked a question afterward was the partner of the documentary filmmaker and poet Bill Scheffel, who took his own life a month ago, at least in part out of despair at what had happened to his community. Some words of his were quoted which had been delivered at a community meeting concerning the recent Shambhala revelations.
    “I’m in a world of pain. When Trungpa Rinpoche died, there were many forces at work. Now there’s a phenomena of you’re either in or out. We are no longer a society. We’ve become a church. Society has division, diversity and dissonance. The rankism [here] creates distance and has broken me.”
    I’m wondering: does anyone know if the entirety of his remarks at that meeting are available? And if so where I might find them?
    I was especially struck by this passage in his partner’s remarks: “And since he died, his friends who are mostly senior students of Trungpa Rinpoche, almost all of them teachers, are saying things like, I killed him, that I’m responsible for his death. No one will say this to me. I hear it from others who’ve heard it and believe those people. But what I’m experiencing is incredible amounts of silence. Like when I email people and they don’t email me back…”
    This is how that organization works. They never admit wrong and never substantively address harm that was caused. They never answer emails, which is atrociously undharmic behavior. Then, when they feel enough time has passed, they tell the person, “oh but that was so long ago, why can’t you let it go?”

      1. And here.
        The ‘remedy’ is dialogue, constructing a place of listening.
        “The most perennially insightful and helpful remedy for this warping of communication I’ve ever encountered comes from the legendary physicist David Bohm (December 20, 1917–October 27, 1992) in On Dialogue — a slim, potent collection of Bohm’s essays and lectures from the 1970s and 1980s, exploring the alchemy of human communication, what is keeping us from listening to one another, and how we can transcend those barriers to mutual understanding.”
        MARIA POPOVA
        https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/05/david-bohm-on-dialogue/

  14. @catlover and all DON’T click the link it’s SPAM with
    All Saints’ Church Horseheath supposed download
    and then some weird Arabic and other links; looking very dodgy!

  15. Some of the articles about abuse in Tibetan Buddhism may be well intentioned, but they make me sick! (Not referring to the root article of this thread. I’m just referring to articles in Dharma magazines, and various commentary on various websites in general etc.) There is no such thing as “cultural misunderstanding.” (Well, there is, but it doesn’t apply to the issue of lama abuse.) There is such a thing as universal ethics, universal human rights, women’s rights, and animal rights. These universal values do not contradict Buddhist values at all, and if they do, then something is seriously wrong with Buddhism. Making excuses for universally BAD behavior is not cool. One thing about these articles is that, despite their efforts to try and address the bad behavior of lamas, they also try to ‘splain it in terms of culture shock, cultural differences, or just lack of understanding in the West of the “profound” East. I sense a subtle kind of effort to try and justify it on some level, or explain it so we can “understand” it better. There is nothing to understand, as far as I’m concerned. There is no excuses for universally BAD behavior. If “culture” was an excuse, we wouldn’t have things like “the universal declaration on human rights” and other universal standards, laws, treaties against torture, and other things of that nature. (Not everyone follows those guidelines unfortunately, but they are there nonetheless, and they prove that there is a universally accepted ‘norm’ in every human society about what is considered good and decent, and what is considered bad, etc. Normal people, (who aren’t indoctrinated by some religion, political ideology, or both), tend to all share these universal human values. Yes, there are differences in culture, but abusers and sadists have no place in any of them. I’m sick of all the Dharma ‘splaining and putting down of the West in order to justify craziness and inhumane, stupid, and lecherous behavior. It’s time to put a FULL STOP to all this stuff before what we call civilization implodes.

  16. The hole saga is too much for me now after those revelation and my feelings to leave this dhamma corrupt way coming to light; go back to it origins of the Shaymuni holy man who i’m sure wood be shocked by what occur in name of him.
    SL should be very ashamed of what he done; may be better he not survive from this cancer rather und stay scuttled off in a retreat of embarrassment he let down rigpa, dhamma, religion.

  17. @KDD
    Well, I wouldn’t wish death from cancer on anyone. Would you? Really? Much better that SL remain alive to (hopefully) come to fully understand and regret everything he’s done. If he dies, there will be all kinds of solemn declarations from the hoo-hahs higher up that the “samaya breakers” made it happen, and then people will get confused all over again, and no lessons will have been learned.

    1. @Been there
      My neither sorry not gut English, but I mean that if he had dies and die acht not written then SL now he would be held as sehr saintly figure und maybe even if some of the abusage had come out like from 1st KaluR, it would be only halve believe (no wish die now as that assumes magical thought; that I concluse be stupid) -so vereinbart.

      1. Thanks, again, RH. I switched browsers and was able to read the article.
        Another very useful voice in the dialogue.Ken McLeod also worked with similar issues of abuse occurring within Kalu Rinpoche’s sangha and organization.
        “Samaya and sacred outlook are powerful tools, but powerful tools can cause serious harm when misused. These two spiritual tools were never intended to govern society or to govern the operation of political and social institutions…..They are directed to the mystic in us, for that part of us that seeks something utterly ineffable yet viscerally important—a direct knowing different from, indeed at right angles to, our conventional understanding of life.”
        The Dalai Lama and Dzongsar Khyentse have also pointed these two roles (mystic/political-institutional)
        If members of a Sangha come together coherently they can try to run the political and social institution al operations democratically and creatively (as long as we don’t turn them into power systems ourselves.) This has always been an option for us to press toward.
        Then, the tools of samaya and sacred outlook can the be based on relationship and responsibility, rather than institutionalized power.

        1. meant: The Dalai Lama and Dzongsar Khyentse have also pointed these two roles (mystic/political-institutional) should be kept separate.

        2. @Rick New,
          It is naive to think (or imagine in ones fantasy) that samaya wouldn’t eventually be used for power and as a way to control people. All religions find a way to control people, and in Vajrayana, samaya is the control mechanism. As soon as the student comes to ask the teacher for an explanation of what samaya means, 9which is bound to happen), the teacher is already injecting his/her own personal view, or the dogma from books, onto the definition. The student is definitely going to apply whatever is said to themselves and their relationship to the teacher no matter what. It would take a very mature student, to understand samaya as a completely inner practice, and a very mature teacher to NOT to be tempted to use it outwardly for his own power. Since humans are human, when is that really going to happen?

          1. Hi @ Catlover,
            It seems possible to project into the future all kinds of possibilities and impossibilities.
            We can also start, here and now, to try and support and listen to one another.
            If, in any way, our failure to listen to one another was part of the way the ‘past’ unfolded, then perhaps we can find inspiration there for deeper listening. The past can be healed.
            Instead of us saying “it is this way, or it is that way” you and I might turn toward one another and explore together. We might notice our own defenses and assertions and let listening somewhat soften the edges.
            We need not rely on beliefs of any kind for instance: https://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Without-Beliefs-Contemporary-Awakening/dp/1573226564
            Everything can be left open to challenge, we need not remain caught in the past cycle of damaging feelings and beliefs. The power is in our hands as we write. There is no Rigpa Organization or teacher here. We are free to go any direction we choose.
            Many regards,
            Rick
            P.S. I do think there are many limitations to online forums. If you want to say hello to one another, I’m available on Skype or Hangouts.

            1. Perhaps the pattern is and has always been in our hands?
              “More precisely, com-menting, if it means thinking-with, that is becoming-with, is in itself a way of relaying . . . But knowing that what you take has been held out entails a particular thinking “between.” It does not demand fidelity, still less fealty, rather a particular kind of loyalty, the answer to the trust of the held out hand. Even if this trust is not in “you” but in “creative uncertainty,” even if the consequences and meaning of what has been done, thought or written, do not belong to you anymore than they belonged to the one you take the relay from, one way or another the relay is now in your hands, together with the demand that you do not proceed with “mechanical confidence.” [In cat’s cradling, at least] two pairs of hands are needed, and in each successive step, one is “passive,” offering the result of its previous operation, a string entanglement, for the other to operate, only to become active again at the next step, when the other presents the new entanglement. But it can also be said that each time the “passive” pair is the one that holds, and is held by the entanglement, only to “let it go” when the other one takes the relay.”
              “In passion and action, detachment and attachment, this is what I call cultivating response-ability; that is also collective knowing and doing, an ecology of practices. Whether we asked for it or not, the pattern is in our hands. The answer to the trust of the held-out hand: think we must.”
              Donna Haraway

            2. @Rick New,
              I guess I have moved beyond any sort of hope that these lama abuse problems can ever be straightened out within the institution, so I am no longer looking for solutions within Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana. I’m not saying that nothing should be done, but I think anything that happens to stop the abuse will have to happen through legal channels and not through churches or Buddhist institutions. I am not hoping any more that religious institutions can ever change, so I am not looking to “reform” Tibetan Buddhism/Vajrayana. I don’t believe there is any realistic way to reform it because the kind of dynamic that causes the abuse in the first place is built into the philosophy and the practices. people may argue and say, “oh, no, people are just misunderstanding the teachings” blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to hear anymore of those lame excuses. I no longer accept them. Also, if it’s that easy to “misunderstand” then the teachings are not being taught very well to begin with, so there’s that. I have completely lost faith in the idea that humans will ever rise above their basic instincts and desires, (which include power, money and sex). It’s not that humans are evil, but humans are faulty and their instincts and responses to things will never change. Power corrupts and temptation is temptation, etc. Those things will always exist and to pretend that it can all be wished away through fancy meditation practices, magical thinking and super human gurus is where a lot of the problem lies, imo. I don’t want to hear any more Dharma ‘splaining, so don’t anyone DARE try to ‘splain anything to me here, lol! I’ll turn into a cranky old lady if anyone tries, so don’t bother, lol! I am beyond listening to anymore Dharma ‘splainations. Maybe I am just one of those lowly Westerners who just doesn’t “get” it. If so, I really don’t care. I don’t need the lamas senior Tibetan Buddhists to approve of my line of reasoning, lol!

  18. As far as I am concerned the WHOLE tradition is tainted and sullied by the fact that ALL the lamas either don’t have the courage to admit, or the actual mental capabilities to realize that Trungpa was an abusive sadist. I feel like Trungpa started the whole thing in the West. He inspired Sogyal, DKR, and the others who are continuing as “crazy wisdom” teachers. As long as the lamas continue to revere these kinds of characters and only speak out about them when Tibetan Buddhism’s PR is being damaged by scandals, I will have no respect for any of them. They show their true colors by who they venerate, and by their silence regarding abuse.

    1. @ Catlover. Interesting.
      Exactly. We are no longer in a buddhist institution, tradition or church. As we are ‘outside’ of it, we can discover and work with the problems in ourselves. We need not rely on others to change or keep referring to Buddhism, Sogyal Rinpoche, Trungpa or anyone else. “Whether we asked for it or not, the pattern is in our hands.”

      1. Rick, I was talking about abusive lamas, since that is the topic of the ‘What Now’ blog. I was also talking about how hopeless it is to change religious institutions, etc. What point are you trying to make? This blog is about abusive teachers and what to do about them, especially Sogyal, but other teachers come into the conversation as well. Are you saying we should all stop talking about the abusive lamas?

      2. The point I was trying to make that may have become lost in the rest of what I said) was that I’ve given up hoping for change in TB, and the only change to come is either through legal means. Trying to resolve it within the groups themselves will never work. It’s like having a corrupt government investigate itself to see if it’s crooked! The whole thing would be laughable if it wasn’t so disgusting!

        1. Thanks, Catlover.
          The blog is titled WHAT NOW? In the Wake of Revelations of Abuse in Rigpa.” “WHAT NOW?” to me, says NOW, this moment, with those of us that are here (now.) If the Rigpa Organization were participating or if Sogyal Rinpoche were participating, then they would be part of what now, but they aren’t, it is just us.
          Since you wrote, ” I am not hoping any more that religious institutions can ever change ” then according to that view, “What Now?” doesn’t apply to these institutions. There is no “What Now?” for those groups according to this view, they won’t change. Even if we take a more optimistic view, as the Dalai Lama said, asking others to change isn’t likely to have much success, but we can ask ourselves to change.
          We can change, we can become better listeners, we can set an example for how to communicate, how not to adopt a party line. We can practice how to allow and encourage challenges and different ways of thinking. How to be kind to one another, how to take care, show deep respect and listening.
          I’m not suggesting we don’t talk about any subject, but that we could ALSO spend time talking about “What Now?” in terms of ourselves.
          What Now? What role did we play, what could we do different moving forward? How are we behaving toward those who think differently now? Are we encouraging each others voices, especially those that are different? Do we fall in to the same patterns as when were in the Rigpa Organization? Are we still looking for authorities? Do we still conduct our conversation in hierarchical approaches? Do we shut others out? Do we create us vs them?
          There is so much to explore here together. What Now? Can we ask the same questions of ourselves that we are asking of the teachers and the Rigpa Organization? If not, can we ask, why not?

  19. @Rick New,
    Are we the only ones talking here now? I am beginning to wonder if everyone else has disappeared, lol! 🙂
    I agree we can all grow beyond these TB organized groups, so if that’s what you’re trying to say, then I agree, (and it’s about time.) Btw, I was never in Rigpa, but other TB groups.

  20. As say before this saga kill off Dhamma for me, und at less this TB version of such, like Christmas Humphries wrote it is Lamaism and a corruption when Dharma mingled the existent Bon-po tradition; this is the legacy of this ‘terton’ maybe the one (or two?) die was the true one reincarnate of Terton Sogyal

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