Another Belief Bites the Dust

We all have hidden beliefs. They’re ones we take as truth because they seem to be part of who we are. We don’t question them because we’ve always believed them or we’ve believed them for so long that we don’t doubt their truth. And we don’t see them because we don’t look for them. It’s like being in a cage and looking through the bars rather than at the bars. You don’t see the bars; you see through the spaces between them, so you don’t know you’re trapped, caged by your hidden beliefs.

You can find your hidden beliefs by asking yourself what you think about all kinds of things – women, men, marriage, science, religion, different races and so on. Whenever you ask yourself what you believe about something, you might uncover a hidden belief. But if they’re a core belief, they won’t be revealed by your first answer, not if you’ve held them since childhood. You may have more recent beliefs pasted on top, but core beliefs will always compromise the more recent belief because they’re stronger. A new belief, if it conflicts with a core belief, just won’t really stick. So you might think that you believe that all races are equal, for example, but deep down a belief in inequality might remain from childhood or from time in a cult. Until you uncover that hidden core belief and expose it to examination so it can fade away in the light of your adult or cult-free self, you’re holding conflicting beliefs and that will always bring some mental discomfort.

I discovered recently why I had been struggling with the idea that I ‘should’ have some ‘spiritual’ practice or path. When I eventually recognised the cause of my angst, saw the hidden belief and realised its limitations, it vanished like smoke blown by the wind and so did my angst.

And when I examined it closely, I realised just how Tibetan Buddhism used this seemingly positive belief as a hook to keep me stuck in a cult and keep the money rolling into Rigpa’s coffers. It did have a positive effect on me for a while. The trouble is that I never discarded it when it became no longer relevant or useful to me.

Listen to the video to get the full story.

Did you or do you also hold this belief? If so, is it still relevant to and beneficial for you? What effect does holding it have on your life?


Image by mollyroselee from Pixabay

12 Replies to “Another Belief Bites the Dust”

  1. Dear Tahlia,

    Thank you so much for your video post today! Its arrival in my inbox coincided nicely with the arrival of an offer of something else, which has forced a whole reckoning and realisation and Aha! moment. I feel brought to my senses in the best possible way. So, thank you so much! 😉

    You are so right about courses and money and being played on to a certain extent. We have to know when that is happening and when to let go. Over the last six months I have been trying something that is secular and exploratory in nature based on some “life coaching” principals. (Whatever the heck THAT means, eh?)

    I recently had to make a big life decision and I did this course as I was afraid I’d go back on my promise to myself. So I did this thing in 3-4 short pieces so that it’s not felt like a course.

    Now there is an offer of a 6 month course for much more money. I’ve been journeying along with this as it evolved as it felt interesting and experimental. However now I’m wondering if the organisers are even aware of the potential for dependence and the development of cult-ish behaviour. Time for me to step off this train methinks!!!

    Anyway it’s always great to listen to your comments on life and religion and the Tib Bud madness we all bought into for so long. Still learning here where and when I get hooked!!! It just didn’t take 16 years this time! Ha ha!!

    Hope all is well with you and yours down under.

    Big COVID-safe hugs

  2. Hi Tahlia,
    Thanks for this and other pieces you have posted over the time. Like the previous comment this is very timely for me too. I was never really on a ‘spiritual path’ even if TB talked about a path to Enlightenment which I personally thought was not as easy as it looked. I was more in search of knowledge, explanation, understanding and an adding on to what I already knew. Kind of seeing where it took me. Wherever that was I believed I had to get it for myself. That TB was not going to hand it to me. Maybe that was because of the setup and all the courses.
    Like Europa I have recently been exploring other ideas. While useful they all seem to be a pyramid or investment in more and more. Which is sometimes fine but in other ways just seems more and more money. Maybe that’s why people went into charnel grounds, caves, deserts, sat under trees and just let things be to see what happens and observe themselves. Which brings me to a point you made of dropping everything. That comes up for me too. It’s like stepping back to reconnect with self. Yet there can be a pull to ‘do’ even in a pandemic. It is like how to we move from observation or stillness or resting and watching or peace into action while still being connected to the expansiveness and not get caught up in the minutia. Guess a work in progress, maybe for many lifetimes. So for now I will just keep pondering and watching that I don’t spend too much on getting. Keep up the good work. Look forward to future posts.

    1. Thanks BB
      Sorry it took me so long to reply. Been busy with business! It’s interesting that you said, ‘stepping back to reconnect with self’. I think that’s very true, that one can be so involved in following a path that you lose connection with the wholeness of yourself. You become what the path demands of you, even though the aim of the path is to be completely ‘you’. In following the path we can sometimes lose it. That sounds like a contradiction, but I think that’s what happened to me. I was too busy being ‘Buddhist Tahlia’ rather than just me. I’m much better off for letting it all go. It’s so nice to just be oneself without concern for how that self is. But then all those years of study and practice have left my mind and heart in a good place, so I can just be me without fear that that ‘me’ is a horrible person. A little weird, maybe, but that’s okay by me.

  3. Spot on Tahlia.
    I remember talking to a Rigparian (=someone who stayed in Rigpa after the abuse came out) about leaving Rigpa. They exclaimed: ‘But what about your spiritual path?’ I replied that the spiritual path begins and ends with compassion, so what use is there in following a path that lacks that? Their answer was, that they didn’t know the people who said they were abused, and it wasn’t told to them personally. They concluded with: ‘My spiritual path is the most important me.’
    And I think that last sentence is the problem. The moment you place ‘my spiritual path’ above anything/anyone else, you’re basically a fundamentalist.

    Apart from that, I also feel the need to have a spiritual path dissolving. It’s OK the way it is…

    1. Ah, I forgot that aspect, but, yes, I saw that too. People whose commitment to the path as the most important thing meant that they put their own interest above doing something about the suffering of others. In the very act of making their spiritual path the most important thing, they stepped off the path really – compassion being the basis of the Mahayana and Vajrayana paths. The enabling and normalising of the abuse was the same kind of thing. Brainwashed into believing that the abuse was crazy wisdom, we ignored the suffering of others. Trouble was, it was hard to follow the ache in one’s heart when we saw him yelling at others and they were crying and shaking, when the y stood up the next day and said how they saw it as love. We were trained to ignore our natural impulse to alleviate the suffering of others. It’s so twisted, so back to front, so not dharma, and not even (apart from the over emphasis on devotion and crazy wisdom) what Sogyal taught with his words.

      Anyway, the best thing that has happened for my spiritual ‘path’ is letting it dissolve. Rigid ideas aren’t the way to finding one’s true nature, and Dzogchen is beyond religion anyway. Even Sogyal said that. It was time for me and many others to leave the monastery and go into the wilderness of everyday life, just like the yogis of old. The letter writers gave me the impetus I needed to move on.

  4. I remember RTR in DzB pointing out that the whole thing was to cut grasping. So if we are not meant to ‘grasp’ onto anything, including life itself, what are we left with? Guess we have to find that out for ourselves!

  5. Thanks for your latest post which resonated with me a lot. I have been following your blog for years now. Not knowing if I agreed or not. So brainwashed by it all in TB. After leaving Rigpa due to sangha problems I found that no one cared enough to discover why I had left, even though I tried to explain it. At a time when I needed others no one was there, despite having cared for others in their time of need. So I left. Only to find years later that SR had been accused of misconduct and abuse. Then his death. Both of which added to my already traumatised mind due to other life problems. I didn’t know what to believe about him, was in denial. In leaving I never really knew if I had fully left. Was I now a lone yogi? Was I one foot in and one foot out? I could no longer practice after being a very strict student for decades. Then the guilt kicked in. All the books and notes on teachings gathering dust. I listened to teachings by other lamas and was often inspired, but it didn’t last. It has been difficult to let go. I just live simply now doing things ordinary people do. In a way I am much happier, content and less stressed. But also feel bereft of my spirituality. Having had to leave beliefs behind, I now have hardly any. I guess it will be a work in progress. Until then thanks for your posts which I find are very similar to my own journey and a great support where there is none. I guess I am now a non returner!

    1. Hi Zenda. Thanks for your comment, it really touched me. Sometimes I wonder whether what I say is of interest to anyone, so it’s wonderful to hear that you’re finding me sharing my journey helpful. It inspires me to keep sharing. TB has had a huge impact on us, some of it negative and some of it positive, and in varying degrees for different people, but for sure the abuse has had a negative impact on us all – even those who deny it, for in their denial, they deny reality and fall back on beliefs instead of transcending beliefs. I found the easiest way to sort it out was to drop it all.

      What was truly beneficial remains without us having to chant about it everyday, because we’ve absorbed it, recognised it as truth in our heart, and what was negative eventually shows itself (as this one did) and then dissolves in the light of our awareness. Discomfort is the pointer that tells us there is something there we need to examine. Like with guilt, we need to ask: what are we guilty about? What is the belief behind that? Is it a useful or healthy belief for us now?

      Beliefs like that we’ll go to a vajra hell if we don’t stick with vajrayana can cause a lot of pain if they’re not uncovered and seen for what they are – just religious beliefs (designed to keep us paying for the lamas lifestyles), not reality, and certainly not ‘true’. Luckily I never believed in hell, so it’s not an issue for me, but for others this kind of belief can be quite crippling. These kinds of negative beliefs naturally drop away once we see them as mere superstition or religious control mechanisms. Thanks for sharing a little of your journey.

  6. You aksed: “Did you or do you also hold this belief? If so, is it still relevant to and beneficial for you? What effect does holding it have on your life?”

    I wish I knew the answer to this. I will keep asking myself because it is a good question.

    At one time I had less discrimination, too much blind faith, within my Buddhist path, I see that now. I began to accept the unnaceptable because I was gaslighted into believing that it was all for our/my benefit. I watched many things that I thought were a teaching for me when all that was happening was that someone was being abused, in plain sight.

    I recently re-read a book by Zigar Kontrul called ‘Light comes through’ hoping for some kernels of what I once believed in to manifest. Instead I got to one chapter in which he is describing an incident that the Buddha is supposed to have done and one which Zigar also copies. I was shocked to find how hurtful and cruel it now appears to me and I wonder what other things tha I have accepted, in the name of Buddhism.

    It was this: ‘Seed of Contentment’ A beggar living on the streets was told by the Buddha that he would give him a bag of gold if he said three times, ‘I don’t want it, I don’t need it’. A supposed act of kindness by the Buddha to help the beggar sow the seeds of contentment in his mind. Change his karma. Zigar talks about repeating the same incident and this time draws a crowd shouting at the beggar ‘just do it’. I felt sadness putting myself in the place of that beggar sitting on the ground and also the utter arrogance of the giver of the gold. So many things I once saw as teachings I now have trouble seeing anything but abuse. I used to deify these people.

    Spiritual abuse as done within Rigpa has damaged my path altogether. I no longer know what to believe in. I am trying to learn to live without the support of spirituality. As the years go by I see that I am still unable to give up that which did not serve me and so am stuck in a bardo, not practicing, occasionally reading, listening but with no real depth for anything. I guess it is all part of letting go. A sort of grief and a need to move on but not knowing where to and what.

    Why can’t I just chuck out all my notes, books, photos of abusive lamas?

    It’s a big question you asked in this blog post and very provoking.

    Thanks for all your posts.

    1. Thanks for your considered comment. I know that bardo. It’s a good word to describe that feeling. I find the best thing for me is to simply live a normal life and live fully present in each moment. I’ve given up ‘spirituality’ altogether, and that takes away the strain of feeling that I have to ‘do’ something spiritual, or that I should be studying or listening to one teacher or another or looking for something to replace what we lost. But I haven’t given up taking time to simply be, still and silent, and I still contemplate my life. I’ve found that writing poetry is a good way of expressing that side of myself. Sitting in nature is a spiritual experience and practice. It brings us back to the moment.

      I think the important thing here is to trust ourselves, trust that we learned what we needed to, and that we have the important teachings inside us, so we don’t need to look for anything else. Really we only need one instruction to take with us and work with. We don’t need a whole system, not if we studied with Rigpa for long enough to get a handle on the core Buddhist teachings. The thing I take with me and practice all the time is ‘watch your mind.’ That’s all you need really. And I add to that remembering to turn my awareness in to look at my awareness as often as I can.

      So long as we don’t carry the superstition forward, I think we can trust that the core Buddhist teachings on meditation and compassion are authentic and can be relied on.

      Chucking out is an ongoing process, I find. I do one layer and keep some things, then later I do it again, when I feel the need to remove more clutter. But I do keep some things. I even have kept my favourite photo of Sogyal. I don’t look at it, but it is a memory of a certain time in my life, and those memories are part of us. I have kept all the little unassuming paper booklets that summarised the teachings, like the Tsuk Sum Netik booklet and the notes on Shamata and Vipasana. Those notes are excellent and without an overlay of personality. I don’t look at them, but I keep them because someone one day might need just that. I’ve thrown out the long life prayers for Sogyal of course!

      Anyway, it’s all a process, and I’m glad you’re finding the question I posed a good stimulus for contemplation.

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