Hollywood & Rigpa: a Comparison. Final part – Outcome

So what will be the outcome of the public revelations of abuse by Harvey Weinstein and Sogyal Rinpoche? In the non-Buddhist community, legal action is the obvious next step. It’s the way people get the perpetrator to take responsibility for their crimes, and it can be avoided, or sentences lessened, by making a heart-felt apology. Buddhists in general tend to not be focused on legal action; for them an apology would have much more power. Weinstein has, at least, apologised, but Sogyal hasn’t apologised, and, in that, his lawyers may have made a fatal mistake in misjudging just how important an apology is to some of the injured parties.
Certainly the 8 letter writers were not seeking legal action. They merely wanted to inform students of the truth. They said:” If we are wrong in what we write, please correct our mistaken view. If your striking and punching us and others, and having sex with your students and married women, and funding your sybaritic lifestyle with students’ donations, is actually the ethical and compassionate behavior of a Buddhist teacher, please explain to us how it is. If, however, we are correct in our assessment, please stop your behaviors that we believe to be harmful to others. … Our heartfelt wish is that you seek guidance from the Dalai Lama, other reputable lamas of good heart, or anyone who can help to bring you back onto the true path of the Dharma.”
Their request has not been met.

Legal action

Scotland Yard has said it is investigating allegations made last month by seven women against Weinstein, some dating back to the 1980s.
Greenfield, a partner at the law firm Fieldfisher who specialises in personal injury cases, told the Guardian: ‘We have a sent a letter of claim to Harvey Weinstein’s London and New York offices. I am waiting to hear from them but I have indicated that [if it is not settled] we will be pursuing a civil claim in relation to sexual assaults by Harvey Weinstein.’
The LAPD requested victims of the Oscar-winning producer to go public.
‘“Please come forward so your cases — and justice — can be pursued,” said Mike Feueron. “We take allegations like these very seriously, and where the facts support conviction, we will prosecute,” he added.
‘As more and more claims of harassment or assault by Weinstein emerge, the New York Police Department and the London Metropolitan Police are already investigating potential complaints. The LAPD has not officially started its own probe, but, as Deadline reported last week, it is seriously considering doing so.’
New York criminal defense attorney Stuart Slotnick says. “The final area is whether the company has any liability, and I think it’s clear based on recent information that there will be lawsuits not only against Weinstein but against his company as well.”
In terms of Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa, the lack of apology, slow pace of Rigpa management to begin the independent investigation they promised, and the rigid adherence to dogma by some lamas and, apparently, the majority of those who remain in the organisation have pushed some ex-Rigpa students to make complaints to the UK Charities Commission and the French Police. (Note that the 8 letter writers did not initiate these investigations, just as they did not release the original letter to newspapers or on social media. Other people are responsible for these events.)
The extreme statements made by Orgyen Tobyal in Paris, such as it being acceptable for a great master to kill someone, have made it clear to some that nothing less than legal action will make such lamas realise that, no matter what they believe,  they simply cannot disregard the law.
The Charities Commission (who will take statements from all over the world) and the French police are therefore encouraging people to come forward to help them with their investigations. A specialist lawyer is working on the case with ADFI of Montpellier. (This is primarily for French nationals but will also include anyone who has experienced abuse on French territory)

Wake up call

In the interview with the Daily Beast, ‘Clooney expressed hope that publicising the allegations against Weinstein would serve as a wake-up call to the industry. “Hopefully, this kind of behaviour will end – or become harder and harder for it to continue,” he said. “We’ve seen this type of behaviour in politics, in Silicon Valley, and in corporate America. This is a big problem in our society, that people in power are taking advantage of people not in power – particularly powerful men with young women.”’
Exactly the same statement applies to Tibetan Buddhism, (Rigpa is only one example of a wider issue). And the issue in Tibetan Buddhism, though it is a necessary first step, will not be solved by the Band Aid solution of the installation of a code of conduct. The deeper issues of feudalism, misogyny and cultural arrogance need to be examined and addressed.
As Laura Bates said in The Telegraph, ‘Harvey Weinstein is not a “beast” or a “monster”. He is a man who has behaved like many other powerful men. The only difference is that Weinstein’s alleged offences have finally, after decades of shameful silence, emerged into the public eye. But thousands of men like him continue to operate with impunity.’
Again this applies to Sogyal Rinpoche. He is not a monster. He is a product of his upbringing and at the mercy of his delusions as we all are, but how many other Tibetan lamas ‘like him continue to operate with impunity’?  If students of Tibetan Buddhism don’t stand up and say, ‘This has got to stop. Now,’ how will it ever change? Clearly the lamas will not deal with the issue unless we insist.
 

Push for social equity

What we need right now is for Rigpa sangha members, past and present, to join together and decry the use of derogatory terms like ‘samaya breaker’ and to push for fair treatment of victims and a deep examination of the reasons why the abuse flourished. Because what’s been created in Rigpa is an environment where it isn’t safe to come forward with a history of abuse, and this is no different from how it is in any other large organization with money and power that has status to lose. But the Weinstein company has responded by firing Weinstein, and board members have resigned, and the company is taking steps to begin to reach out to employees to address their concerns.

Rigpa has an opportunity to be a positive force for change here but they have not stepped up to accept that challenge, instead they have hunkered down behind the same beliefs that enabled the abuse.

Rigpa students, please go to your local sangha meetings and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Rigpa and all its representatives need to be held accountable.  After all, we were supposed to be a spiritual group and better than samsaric organizations, but the response from Rigpa to claims of abuse has been halting and half-hearted at best, and purposely victim-blaming at worst.
We, who devoted years and all our work and much of our disposable income, deserve better than this.

It’s not too late to turn it around, to drop the denial and face facts, but it gets harder with each passing day.


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting personal and private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  The group files include lists of online courses with reputable teachers, and members can join monthly Skype meetings and retreats. If you’re interested, click the link and ask to join. You will need to answer some questions before being admitted to the group.
Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ in general could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. Links to posts on this blog will be posted there as well as links to other relevant information related to the wider issues.
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31 Replies to “Hollywood & Rigpa: a Comparison. Final part – Outcome”

      1. Dear Tenpel, it was a short and spontaneous comment which expresses my frustration. These What Now posts seem to me becoming more and more self-righteous, beeing on a justice cruisade against someone. I can no longer see any dharmic attitude behind it. No love. No compassion. No wisdom.
        That is very sad for me. 🤕

  1. clarification in public, healing should come…
    those with tons of words:
    have you witnessed what you speak about and…
    those demonizing others (the 8 and so on.…) are you in the view of reality, shunyata?
    no. you are not.
    So remember the view…

    1. ” demonizing others”: do you mean people like Orgyen Tobgyal and Namdrol, who demonize others without any proof !

  2. Is our failure to communicate (then and now) the environment that germinates our difficulties?
    Might a different environment (then) have opened a space where these problems didn’t arise and might focusing on creating that environment (now) help heal this situation and create a more positive environment for the future?
    As Dzongsar Khyentse wrote, “we human beings often suffer as a result of miscommunication. What is the antidote for miscommunication? Communication! So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place…”
    Whether one has repudiated DKR isn’t the point, can we hear the message and focus our efforts and creating a space for wholehearted communication?
    Can we drop our own denial instead of asking others to drop theirs? Are we still dependent on others to make some change?
    Might we hold the power of healing and prevention that we are seeking?

    1. I wonder Rick, what you think is being communicated by punching someone, or defecating on them – is it a direct communication between two fixed objects, one an inherently enlightened being and the other simply a passive recipient of their experimentation, or is it perhaps less than direct, one person acting out their sexual fantasies to anyone willing to tolerate that, while the other seeks some kind of magical fruit of their devotion, only to then discover that they were merely the placeholder for a failed symbolic exchange which foreclosed on their progress?
      I’m hoping this communication wasn’t too “wholehearted” for you.

        1. Hi Jan, thank you.
          “The one who should communicate now is Sogyal Lakar”
          Yes, this might be true and it would be very good to hear further from him.
          It doesn’t seem we can do much about Sogyal Rinpoche’s choice to respond or how he responds.
          It doesn’t seem there is anything (external) blocking us from looking at our own responses toward one another, then and now.

  3. “I wonder Rick, what you think is being communicated by punching someone, or defecating on them – is it a direct communication between two fixed objects, one an inherently enlightened being and the other simply a passive recipient of their experimentation, or is it perhaps less than direct, one person acting out their sexual fantasies to anyone willing to tolerate that, while the other seeks some kind of magical fruit of their devotion, only to then discover that they were merely the placeholder for a failed symbolic exchange which foreclosed on their progress?”
    Thank you for your reply Adrian.
    I think the communication you refer to is about someone else, but we are right here, right now, and how we communicate with one another seems of primary importance.
    Decades ago, we couldn’t communicate with one another, we made our brothers and sisters psychologically vulnerable, we treated those close to the teacher with respect and those further away with disrespect. Now we treat those aligned with the teacher disrespectfully and those that are speaking out against the behavior with respect.
    I’m fearful to speak out on this blog, I meet the same animosity as years ago when trying to talk openly, then I was questioning the teacher, bringing up many of the issues being brought up now.
    I know what it is like to be deeply, deeply “abused,” right to the core, for long years on end. I also know that anger toward the abuser may be a necessary stage, but ultimately comes around to facing one’s self and each other.
    Communication with one another in a deeply respectful way and learning to listen to difference matters, and it matters a lot.
    Communication can help heal, and we need not continue to rely on the teacher to change, but we can make a shift to rely on ourselves and one another.
    The doorway of communication opens to a great potential that exists within the Sangha, within each of us. If we keep cancelling each other out by our incessant focus on the teacher (positive or negative) then it doesn’t seem to me we have changed very much by this situation coming to light.
    A blog isn’t an easy environment to have these kind of exchanges, so much can be imagined here, when we are face to face or at least hearing the humanity in one another’s voice there is a shift.
    Can we work together to clear a space for communication with one another?

  4. Thank you, Rick, I think you bring up an important perspective. However, I think that you might be asking too much of this blog. In the beginning, I also was impressed by the tone of people speaking out on this blog and others. People were listening and talking in real ways about their pain and confusion and spiritual journeys. I think underlying this was a certain hope that things might be shifting and that new spiritual communities could be built. There was also a feeling that the harm could be ended.
    Maybe? I can only speak for myself and what I see. And now with the response from Rigpa and Sogyal being so rigid and silent, along with the distressing responses from some lamas, things seem to have grown a little polarized. I’ve seen more strong opinions and less interest in listening and more anger and frustration overall. And now, many commenters, at least on these blogs, have lost interest.
    I don’t know what is happening in other places and venues, there could well be more involvement there, but I think there’s frustration being felt by all. So it is difficult to address what you’re asking for, though it’s totally valid.

    1. From my point of view had the tone started to change slowly. I think its due to Rigpas and Sogyals way of refuting any sense making way of communication.
      From my experience was Rigpa in the past characterized by a oneway and top-down communication a long with many different skillfull ways to manipulate audience, this pattern is maintained till today.
      Such a pattern can cause easily a more angry mode of mind then expected often.

  5. Apologies Rick if you felt some kind of animosity there, I suspect it might be an effect of tearing away from this fantasy concerning the space of communication.
    While I agree that learning to listen to difference does matter, it is in regard to the idea that “we can make a shift to rely on ourselves and one another” which I wish to dissect here. Indeed, self-reliance is something I take to be a cornerstone of the Buddha’s teachings, but as for the idea of relying on one another, I find that deeply questionable.
    Undoubtedly we do have this space for communication, but is it really with “one another”?
    As Dzongsar Khyentse wrote, “we human beings often suffer as a result of miscommunication. What is the antidote for miscommunication? Communication! So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place…”, but then as Glenn Gould once said, the relationship between speaker and audience is in the ratio of 1:0. Sure, it might be nice to have a fantasy of being agreed with and supported, and equally unpleasant to feel in a minority of one while others dismiss our point of view, but ultimately this is fantasy land, Dzongsar Khyentse should know better than to try to fix samsara.
    We seem to have this model, where someone has committed to a path for many years, investing their energies with some degree of ‘success’, pursuing their own ends and living their own dream… and then when this then collapses and is called into question, we have this idea that they should then apologise because it will go some way to helping the victims heal, ‘victims’ here being the means to that end – of course they felt used – but was the ‘communication’ really ever for them?
    Will the relationship really be healed by this fantasy finally being consummated, or as you put it, “Can we drop our own denial instead of asking others to drop theirs? Are we still dependent on others to make some change?”
    While I wholeheartedly agree with this quotation, I suspect my interpretation of it is almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction to your intention here – maybe I am simply saying that there is no “we” who could either have a successful and healing communication or fail to have one, there are simply different positions taken up in regard to shared space which involve negotiating our own impossible demands, recognised by no one.

  6. Hi Joanne and Adrian. Thank you for your messages. There’s a lot there and I appreciate it. Unfortunately, I’ve come down with some chills and a fever. I will write back when I’m feeling better. Hold those thoughts!

  7. Thanks, Adrian. Slowly doing better!
    Adrian & Joanne,
    Thank you so much for your messages.
    The way I’m attempting to use the term dialogue it isn’t about being in agreement or acting as a kind of support group, though these effects may occur. In dialogue, difference is heard, without cancelling out that difference. This type of listening requires subtle noticing and suspension of various forms of reactivity. In this environment, something new might have a chance to appear. Since we are practitioners, we begin with an immediate capacity to enter into this kind of space.
    David Bohm wrote, “it [dialogue] has great power – potentially, or even actually. And in dialogue we discuss how to bring that to some sort of coherence and order. The question is really: do you see the necessity of this process?“
    Perhaps we have the power to heal this situation and uncover unknown capacities, why should we limit ourselves?
    https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/12/05/david-bohm-on-dialogue/
    Thanks,
    Rick

    1. I think this is exactly right Rick, and have been considering something similar in regard to the idea that, “Since we are practitioners, we begin with an immediate capacity to enter into this kind of space.”
      Weinstein’s apology serves to restore the fantasy of social harmony. It is a bit like watching a movie where the protagonist strives against some injustice which then ends with some kind of closure, for us – the watching audience.
      What is thereby rescued and preserved is the very fantasy which gave rise to the problem in the first place – the question of authority, where the mandate to govern is derived from this privileged perspective… once the preserve of God and by association, the monarch and church, this theistic space has become the atheistic fantasy par excellence, the news agencies share this perspective for the benefit of us onlookers, the watching audience who have little or no actual experiential involvement in the situation, but who can partake of this ‘authoritative view’.
      The status of the Lama is also founded on this fallacy of authority, and so the motivation to practice is all too often the promise of obtaining a “special view” – the same view given by the camera in a movie, observing both sides without any involvement or influence, the actors do not change their behaviour in the same way they would if a group of us were stood there watching – this is the myth of the free-floating neutral observer, a kind of ‘pure view’ which exists nowhere, a leap to a pure fantasised construction, one of the impossible ways of being ruled out by the doctrine of emptiness.
      Healing, viewed in these terms, means that both the victim and perpetrator need to deal with their own ‘karma’ – their own projected ’causes’ – one does not simply renounce their life’s work without working through their own desire – the closure given by the fairy tale ending, “…and they all lived happily ever after”, is purely there for the benefit of the audience – in real life, this is where the mundane, lengthy, and rather messy chore actually begins.
      So while I agree with the idea that ‘we’ should unhook ourselves from this co-dependence on the perpetrator’s response, I am rather wary of re-hooking back into an identical structure which does nothing to dispel this mythical vantage point, but rather reinforces it.
      I take it this is what is meant by, “difference is heard, without cancelling out that difference”, the idea of keeping that space open.

  8. Hi Adrian,
    Yes, “keeping that space open”, not “re-hooking back into an identical structure” (perhaps with a different form, even a seemingly opposite one.)
    Our agreements with one another are doorways, not foundations, they too are kept in question and suspension, (though they may function in a certain way.) “…in real life, this is where the mundane, lengthy, and rather messy chore actually begins.”
    Yes, that is the nature of dialogue. The question I’m looking into is “and it’s very important that it happen together, because if one individual changes it will have very little general
    effect. But if it happens collectively, it means a lot more.” If this is true, it seems to me we have a unique opportunity as westerners and practitioners during this time of crisis.
    Rick

    1. Rick, I actually think that these conversations are already achieving much of what you suggest. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but the reason I continue on these blogs is that I see growth in myself and in the cause of creating more wholesome, wise TB communities in the West as a result of these interactions. Even the more harsh, intolerant or aggressive comments challenge parts of myself and demand that people rewrite what they envision and what they see as possible. Each interaction demands for me that I look at my own visions and desires from new angles in order to respond. Each time I do that, even if I seem to be just holding fast to my own views, I become a little more open to new possibilities.
      For example, I struggled in the beginning with some harsh responses to my last post on Tenzin’s blog, responses that seemed to want to silence me. But as I worked with my own mind and continued to engage on the blogs, then new perspectives emerged. You see, my first response was to think, Oh this is ridiculous, there’s no hope for reform with such attitudes– I saw an impenetrable stark reality to what was actually a changing, very mutable situation. Then, I kept at it and am finding that each person involved in the interaction has his or her own reality that is useful for me to understand.
      So I totally understand how it can be frustrating when the same old patterns are being revisited again and again. But entrenched patterns never change overnight. And I suggest that our biggest enemy here is discouragement. HHDL said once that we should never get discouraged, for that will too quickly turn to defeat. And his life attests to that.
      So thanks for this conversation and that is my take on things, for today anyway… 🙂

      1. Thanks, Joanne.
        Yes, all our best efforts count and matter and it is good these shifts are spoken about so we don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Thanks for doing so and for “keeping at it.”, I sure appreciate it and think it matters. Thank you for the reminder.

      2. Well put, Joanne. That is indeed the result of listening and being open to other’s views. I’ve found a lot of ‘practice material’ in the heated nature of some of the discussions around this issue, as in in practicing not to react, but to open and truly listen. The fruits of that are that not only does it help me to understand others’ perspectives and deepen my sense of relation to them but also I grow in the process.
        One thing I’m sure of is that we’ll never fix samsara! At least not in my lifetime. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do what we can, though, to help sort things out in whatever way we feel able to. I think that the conversation on this post is modeling effective communication, for so far as I’ve read at the moment anyway.
        Thanks to everyone for your participation.

  9. Returning to Moonfire’s post, wasn’t the core point that the Rigpa organization has to date neither acknowledged nor addressed the question of whether the organization has been complicit in or covered up a teacher’s misbehavior? Now while the letter from the 8 did raise the question, the logic of any investigation is that a teacher’s behavior cannot be investigated alone without also considering the context, in this case the organizational patterns and actions. Personally, I find the apparent lack of organizational introspection and inspection most disturbing, even more so than a teacher’s misbehavior.
    Perhaps some response will have come out of the US Thanksgiving retreat. In the meantime, I reflect on the importance of taking full personal responsibility for one’s own path and, if lucky, morphing perhaps a little bit into relying on one’s own wisdom mind.
    Thank you all for your sharings.

  10. Joe Lubischer wrote:
    “From my experience was Rigpa in the past characterized by a one way and top-down communication along with many different skillful ways to manipulate audience, this pattern is maintained till today.”
    Yes, this seems to be the core pattern that has set the stage for our current crisis.
    As these problems emerge, this mode of communication is further strengthened, creating further problems, a renewed strengthening of the hierarchy and the cycle continues.
    Meanwhile, the benefits of top down communication also function, there is apparent coherence, stuff gets done, movies are made, temples are built, corporations form, but underneath the chaos and conflict continues to increase until it reaches another threshold and the inner chaos is brought to the surface.
    This chaos and conflict affects those in and out of the actual hierarchical structure, loss of self worth/ increase of power, breakdown of communication/improvement in command structures, demands upon members/acquiescence to those demands, etc., and we see the resulting split today everywhere, Hollywood, religious institutions, governments, big business, almost every institution functions in a similar pattern.
    When questioned, the built in reaction of the hierarchy is to become defensive, no one is to blame, it is part of that structure of thinking, a mechanism, a mistake that can, if we see the necessity, be worked with directly. As Adrian wrote, “this is where the mundane, lengthy, and rather messy chore actually begins.”

  11. Ah, sorry, thanks for pointing that out.
    Your words also mesh here, “the logic of any investigation is that a teacher’s behavior cannot be investigated alone without also considering the context, in this case the organizational patterns and actions.”
    Also, Hi Joe! Do you remember Susan & I from the old days in California?

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