Another View on DZK's talks

The following, written by Topden, appeared first as a comment on a Facebook post as a reply to someone who essentially said they were finding it hard to see anything positive about DZK’s talks because they had experienced abuse at the hands of two Tibetan Lamas who were operating under the same belief system as DZK was expounding.
I asked permission to post it here as an example of one way to view the teachings. Anyone with a different view is welcome to submit a guest post.
Sorry it’s so long.

Any kind of abuse, physical, emotional or psychological can be deeply damaging, and I truly wish healing to those who experience it as well as those who are the perpetrators, as the pain they inflict on others arises out of their own suffering and confusion. I also deeply wish that it doesn’t turn into an obstacle that cannot be worked with and transformed on the path for spiritual practitioners.
My experience of the talks is not any less influenced by my own pre-conceived notions or previous experiences, because naturally they are, and that is true for everyone. The interesting point simply is my experience is quite different. To out myself from the start, I do like DJK’s teaching style, approach and explanation of the Dharma and feel I have benefited (and been challenged) by him in that regard. Also I have no personal experience of abuse of this kind in a Dharma setting so that might make me a bit naive.

What DZK is and is not doing.

As far as I see it, and by what he has said in his talks, DJK isn’t coming to Rigpa to play judge and jury or directly try and heal the emotional and psychological damage of those who were subject to the abusive behaviours outlined in the letter. I am not even sure if that is his role to play, but in any case it is a role he isn’t trying to play, rightly or wrongly. What he does seem concerned about is trying to explain and correct misunderstandings about the Vajrayana in particular, which from my point of view is a way he can help contribute towards the reduction of further abuse and harm occurring in the future, as well as preserving a tradition that for many is beneficial and free from the kind of abuse we have heard about at Rigpa.
DJK is also trying to make sense of the immensity of the situation and is but one voice in a dialogue to that end. In the meantime he is teaching the Vajrayana from what he has learnt from his teachers and the texts and encouraging others to study and not just take the Lamas’ words for it.
Here are some of the points that I can remember him making in his writing and talks so far, that I think help towards these ends:

Points for the future.

  • He emphasised more study, practice and preparation, which, as we know, is a protection against being duped or sucked into harmful relationships or situations. Knowledge and insight is empowering.
  • He said that it is the Tibetans who are at fault for joining spiritual power with temporal power and making the Vajrayana into a public affair with mass empowerments etc. which is not how it originally was in India, where instead there were very private Vajrayana student-teacher relationships between competent individuals.
  • He said that SR was at fault in recreating the spiritual/temporal Tibetan cultural set up within Rigpa, which has nothing to do with Dharma, Vajrayana or otherwise.
  • He said that SR is totally wrong if he did not correctly prepare his students and then acted as if they were in a Vajrayana student-teacher relationship with him.
  • With regards to samaya he mentioned that in the above case the so-called teacher is at fault far more than the student, because the teacher should know better.
  • He said that Student Devotion is equally, if not more important, than Guru Devotion. Personally, I don’t think I have heard much or anything about the concept of Student Devotion from other teachers and am interested to hear more from him about that.
  • He said in terms of conduct that teachers should act outwardly like a Sravakayana practitioner, inwardly as a Mahayana practitioner and only secretly as a Vajrayana practitioner.
  • He has said that the Vajrayana isn’t necessary or a path for everyone, and if it is to be undertaken, then it is to be done so after much study, practice and analysis of the teacher and student and through complete choice and volition as a way to train the mind, but once the decision is made it wouldn’t be an effective method if it could be opted out of any moment the ego feels challenged or uncomfortable.I would say this implies that the uncomfortableness is held within the perspective and profound understanding gained from the previous training, practice and analysis of the teacher and is therefore known to be part of the path by the student in a deep way but nevertheless still has to be experientially worked through as a point of mind training. In all the examples DJK uses here to elucidate this point, there is no mention of abuse, be that physical, emotional, sexual or otherwise, rather they are ones like being told to “keep Wednesday a secret” as a way for the student to train the mind and go beyond dualistic thinking.

On Abuse.

When questioned about a Vajrayana master using what looks like abusive methods, he says that if they are a Mahasiddha and they are performed out of wisdom/compassion (with the understanding that the student has been properly prepared, both sides have analysed and entered into a Vajrayana student-teacher relationship; because anything less than that is totally wrong) to benefit the student, then there is room for this in the tradition and as we know there are many examples of this, so that should not surprise anyone. If we don’t like that fact about the tradition, then we don’t need to follow the Vajrayana path or engage in a Vajrayana style student-teacher relationship and that is okay. What DJK is continually pointing out however is that the context those examples occurred in are completely different historically, culturally and inter-personally, to the historical and cultural context at Rigpa and the relationship SR had with his students as the relationships were not based on the correct foundations, as far as he is aware and can get a sense of.

Not a mahasiddha, thinking for oneself and opposite interpretations.

When he used the example of the mahasiddha, by saying that he isn’t one, you might interpret it as if he were hiding behind non-discrimination and that no one could therefore judge SR and his behaviour. I interpreted it differently, partly because he immediately went on to make value judgements and discriminate, like the points I mentioned above about Rigpa and SR. Also, he was telling people not to take what he says as the proclamation of a Buddha, as he [DZK] has his own projections. In other words, you need to think for yourself, which for Rigpa students if what people are saying is true, could be quite radical for them to hear. Moreover, within the context of what he said about Tibetan culture and temporal power, he could have basically been saying, “I am not a Lord and you are not my Serf, wake up, discriminate!” Ironically, what I interpret he was saying and doing there has been interpreted by some as the complete opposite. I am not saying here that either of our interpretations are totally right or wrong, but it is interesting that they can be so different based on our individual projections etc, which is what DJK said would happen and is a teaching in itself. So it gladdens me when people highlight this when their opinions have an online following.


Later, using himself as an example, he said there are some things he would not be able to do if his teachers asked him and that was okay, but at the very least he would make an aspiration to be able to do them in the next life. If that personal example isn’t a way to help people relax around what they currently understand as Guru Devotion being a very rigid, completely obedient, blind following of an authority figure kind of trip, then I don’t know what is.

Tibetan Lamas.

He also mentioned that Tibetan teachers like OTR should know better and make an effort in understanding westerners and western culture more, but many, including OTR don’t and that is a big problem.

Not black and white.

I cannot see anything in what DJK has written or said so far that justifies or legitimises SR at all in terms of SR’s training or lack of training, how he set up the culture in Rigpa, how he hasn’t prepared his students properly and how in not doing so then acting abusively is totally wrong behaviour. However, that does not mean, I am sorry to say, that SR is totally evil or that he hasn’t benefited anyone at all. People are complex, situations are complex, nothing is black and white, inconveniently, but it is far easier psychologically to so order reality in that way.
That’s what the media does, that’s what the human mind which oscillates between extremes does every moment, and that is what the Dharma, the Middle Way, is in part trying to liberate sentient beings from, as far as I understand. That’s not to say no actions are wrong or right on the conventional level because they are, and they should be opposed and rectified or cultivated and promoted, respectively, in ourselves, others, organisations and society at large. But people are not totally bad or totally wrong or totally good or totally right, generally (Guru Yoga and Pure Perception is a practice) and that way of seeing things is what in part entraps people in unwholesome situations and relationships in the first place, as they abandon any critical analysis by blindly thinking and therefore feeling a person is 100% good (attachment/grasping), then after that fantasy is disappointed they become 100% bad (aversion/hatred). That right there is Samsaric thinking; suffering and is to be challenged. Sitting in the middle of that, with all the confusion and unknowing, is as far as I can tell part of the practice. Life is like one big, long (if we are lucky) Zen Koan!

Challenging negativity bias.

What I personally feel needs to be challenged here in particular and generally in life, is negativity bias, which is when the mind is drawn to, focuses on and dwells on the negative at a higher level of frequency and at detriment to the higher instances of positive things or occurrences. Negativity bias, when left unchecked can contribute to general anxiety, low moods and distorts our perception of reality. This has an evolutionary component in so much that noticing what was lacking, wrong or dangerous helped in survival by protecting against all kinds of threat to physical life. Most of these physical threats have been removed for many of us, however the underlying negativity bias mechanism continues to operate on a psychological/identity ego level. To me there is a lot of negativity bias going on in some places with regards to DJK’s talks. No one seems to be acknowledging that he is taking the time to talk, answer difficult questions and provide an ongoing platform for discussion and dialogue. Instead there is cherry picking, extracting a few lines of text from hours of talks or a whole book, looking for what fits an already negative narrative and caricaturing him as a villain. What’s more, some people seem to be responding to him as if he has committed the abuse himself because of his association with Rigpa. A positive aspect of Rigpa, that DJK points out and I agree with, is that it invites and hosts many different teachers, and I wonder where the Rigpa Sangha would be now if that was never the case? So, perhaps the human tendency towards negativity bias and the mindful application of recognising what is good and useful is worthy of some attention here.

Pure perception and trust.

Ironically, the controversial and as far as I can see often misunderstood practice of pure perception, goes against the deepest grain of negativity bias. However, it is a practice to be done only with someone we trust without doubt has our best interests at heart, a conclusion the student comes to due to their previous study, practice and analysis. As we know, the Lam Rim has a lot to say about how to recognise an authentic teacher, what qualities they should have and DJK dedicates time to this in his book, The Guru Drinks Bourbon, as well.

Silence and evaluating a teacher.

As for the question of how we can analyse a teacher if their student’s cannot speak about their methods, it presupposes that the methods a teacher uses with one student shall be the same as the methods they use with another, which as far as I understand may not be true due to the unique, fluid and dynamic nature of each individual Vajrayana student-teacher relationship, therefore, analysis made on that basis may well turn out to be unhelpful in any case. I would suggest it more beneficial to focus on getting to know the teacher’s qualities, (which isn’t a purely intellectual endeavour but one also of the heart that is helped through personal practice) however long that takes, and trusting what their motivation is, however long that takes, because then the methods will be understood within that context, whatever they may be. Moreover, as DJK explained, if you find a teacher that you cannot get close to, then perhaps they aren’t for you. And as has been mentioned again and again, a Vajrayana teacher-student relationship isn’t mandatory at all.

Recognising the difficulty.

I recognise the extreme difficulty here in attempting to call out injustice and abuse to protect future individuals as it is fraught with many outer, inner and no doubt secret (people’s blind spots to mention one) obstacles. It is not one I think I could manage as I would not know where to draw the line between exposing abuse and protecting people and their connection to the Dharma and exposing abuse and therefore turning people off the Dharma before a genuine connection can be made. Gun shots always make more noise than hugs, but that doesn’t mean there are more gunshots in the world than hugs, although it can seem that way if we simply believe our ears and people generally do. To those of you who are brave enough to walk this tightrope, I salute you! 👏
I do believe, or perhaps pray and hope, much like DJK also said, that bringing these issues to light and the subsequent interest and discussions that result, will in the end strengthen the authentic Dharma, help protect future people from being led astray or being prey to those who would use it for their own ends, as it takes root in the West at this relatively early stage.
May it bring benefit!
P.S. DJK can be a provocateur and confronting, and I think that is either a turn on or turn off for many. The good news is that no one has to listen to anything he has to say about anything. We must also know that we do not have to totally accept or totally reject what anyone says, Lamas or otherwise. Instead we can take what we personally find useful and leave what we don’t or are unsure about.

Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting 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 and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
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.

47 Replies to “Another View on DZK's talks”

  1. Concerning this thorny question of preparing students for the Vajrayana, in the context of Sogyal’s toxic behaviour, as i wrote on tenpel’s blog: how on earth do you prepare people for abuse? The very idea is preposterous. In laymen’s terms that’s known as grooming – and we all know how that ends up.

  2. I do not know Cesare, the writer of that article. Is he not aware of Dzongsar’s allegiance to Sogyal?
    Anyway, these are the reasons why I now will no longer be involved with Sogyal, Dzongsar, and RIGPA:
    1. Sogyal committed sex abuse.
    2. Sogyal’s organisation, RIGPA, covered-up his sex abuse.
    3. RIGPA chose Dzongsar, Sogyal’s closest ally, to be their advisor.
    4. Dzongsar is distorting Buddhism, and he is dismissing His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice, in an attempt to protect Sogyal and RIGPA.
    5. One does not have be a member of RIGPA to be a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. Pure teachers can be found elsewhere.
    In short, covering-up, or dismissing sex abuse, like Dzongsar and Rigpa have done, is grossly irresponsible, and it is destroying the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism.
    Please bear in mind the immense amount of suffering that Sogyal’s sex abuse victims went through, and ask yourself why you would want to follow any teacher or organisation who is covering-up or dismissing that.

  3. What I love in the Buddha’s teaching, it’s its straightforwardness, even when it has a temporary meaning or a relative one; I studied, often directly in Tibetan language, the sutras, shastras, Abhidharma and tantras, with reputed scholars and Lamas.
    However, even if I have a confused mind and if I’m an ordinary woman, I never felt during my studies that somebody were trying to drown me in muddy waters. This is what I feel when I listen to DJKR recent talks and when I read this post (which try to clarify mud). This is what I felt when abusers tried to justify themselves and hide their wrong deeds.
    Please the facts, the real situation, stop to get around the real issue with wishy-washy talks ! Which light do you see in these talks ?
    Personally, I don’t think that DJKR is a bad person, I appreciate a lot what he is doing for the Buddha Dharma, especially concerning translation and making Tibetan texts available to the public. But I don’t think that he is the good person to address the issue now. And I also think that he participated to the confusion in the west, and that he can be quite unfair with westerners disciples (I don’t even speak of his obedient samayaded disciples). Even so, I have no animosity towards him, it’s just a fact.
    I’m a French citizen living not far from Lerab Ling, and also a Buddhist. Many people in France take at heart what happen in Lerab Ling and in other Buddhist centers (because other scandals happened recently), and it has a huge negative effect on our lives as Buddhist practitioners, a negative effect on Buddhism (Many people talk really badly about Buddhists and Buddhism now, at the TV, in the press, in the villages, in town, during Christian conferences… ). The 8, and Rigpa are not the only one concerned by what happen here, its much more wide-ranging.
    Please bear in mind that Lerab Ling and Rigpa centers are not a republic inside the Republic, with it’s own laws. We expect more than these brain washing talks, we expect a clear analyze of the situation, fair decisions and fair acts.

  4. @Marge
    3. “RIGPA chose Dzongsar, Sogyal’s closest ally, to be their advisor.”
    How do you know he is Sogyal’s closest ally? I had thought OT is a closer ally and OT seems to influence DKR on many things. DKR calls OT to do his mos which is concerning he cannot make his own decisions. OT did not want to step into the role but I bet he is directing DKR in the background.
    5. “One does not have be a member of RIGPA to be a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. Pure teachers can be found elsewhere.”
    I would have phrased it differently, as I am not convinced they were ever practicing buddhism, but rather a sort of twisted take on it – I would not put them in the category of a dharma place. I would say true buddhist teachers and pure dharma can be found elsewhere.
    Does anyone have knowledge of what actually happened to Mingyur Rinpoche? He was supposed to be on the vision board?

    1. @concerned
      just wondering, when you say OTR influences DKR on many things, is this factual or supposition?
      Influences him in which things?
      I’m genuinely interested as a stakeholder I guess…

      1. I’m fairly certain Rose. I’m confused though on your switch. You had previously said DKR wanted you to sleep with him which is a major red flag. A doctor should not cross that boundary with his patients and nor should a teacher with his students, be it a school teacher, a dharma teacher, or a professor. I was glad to hear you turned him down at the time.
        Please be careful and use discriminating mind. It is your decision of course. I wonder if he’s a sex addict.

        1. Thankyou for your care 🙂
          I don’t regret that decision and importantly never suffered any negative consequences from Rinpoche as a result. I am regretting putting it all out publicly now tho’ – it’s personal business and I was in a particular state of mind that triggered my posting that. Rinpoche was never abusive to me or others that I saw – on the contrary he benefitted me immensely… I would like to undo any damage I may personally have done to peoples’ perceptions of him as he is an amazing teacher with many wonderful qualities… hence the request to remove those comments.
          I am appreciating the time he is putting into the Rigpa situation and having been under his care for many years, I don’t think his involvement is dubious – I do think he is genuine in wanting to be of benefit moving forward.
          May we all be swiftly liberated.

          1. I don’t think you did any damage but it is good you questioned and even better you used your common sense at the time. To think he has Playboy magazines sent to his room and seems to think it’s OK to sleep with his students is a wonder. He seems a perv to me! Is this just another instance of an asian man seeing western women as objects? Any great master should have control over their desires, mastery over their mind. And there ARE great masters who demonstrate this.

            1. @concerned
              He never came across as sleazy/pervywith me ever – nor that I saw with anyone else either! In fact I understood his question as a kind of test – after all he was desired by many women but my interest truly lay with the spiritual. I was not punished for my choice but was guided with the same care as before.
              In his Paris talks he addresses the question of sex with a guru saying if it is with the student’s benefit in mind and with the right view it can be done.
              Re the magazine it is likely to have been a teaching tool for his male students to watch their own responses.
              Tbh this is exactly why the Vajrayana is secret – because unconventional methods may be used and the average person won’t ‘get it’. I made a big mistake in saying anything because I now feel it is being taken out of context and misunderstood. I regret this deeply.
              Also, just for the record, Rinpoche wasn’t sexist in the slightest Eg he used to comment how we in the West might think it negative that a woman wears a hijab but how is that any worse than the ubiquitous half naked woman in Western advertising? I could go on.
              Also he has many female students whom I have never seen treated any differently to the males.
              Really, this repeating of or dwelling on my careless comments -which I made whilst in a emotional state – needs to stop and I ask again to the blog owner that they be removed.
              I won’t engage on this anymore.
              Sincere questioning with an open mind with a motivation to move forward positively is great but it seems like there’s a bit of a witch hunt going on against DKR atm…..
              – not directed at anyone in particular.

              1. @Rose,
                I think you were wise to turn down DKR’s offer because a relationship with him would have caused more trouble than it’s worth, imo. I’m glad you were spared the drama.
                It is not my intention to draw more attention to this issue, but I wanted to reassure you that your comments have had absolutely no influence on my opinion of DKR in any way whatsoever. At least as far as I’m concerned, your comments didn’t do any more damage than what he has already done to himself, lol! If you have been reading my recent comments, you are probably aware that I already have a very unfavorable opinion of DKR, which isn’t related to anything you said at all. My negative opinion is mostly a result of what the man himself has done to his own reputation, and some of the things he says. Also, I always knew he has affairs with women (and I think he might also have affairs with men as well), and I wouldn’t be shocked if any woman told me he approached them in that way. I have always pictured him having affairs with his students too, (which is why he is such an ally of Sogyal’s.) Anyway, I am just responding to let you know that you did no damage. The damage is already done. He already has a big reputation for having girlfriends and sleeping around, so that kind of behavior with him is not secret, so you haven’t revealed some secret, Tantric thing by mentioning what happened. You did nothing wrong by saying what you did, and it doesn’t change the fact that many people already know about him and his behavior. I have always known about it, and other people have made comments to me about how he “broke hearts” and hit on women, etc. He has even admitted it himself. At least he doesn’t pretend to be celibate, lol!

                  1. Ditto to all Catlover said. It didn’t do any damage or change my opinion of him. So don’t worry about it. That teaching style is just not for me.

              2. @Rose “In his Paris talks he addresses the question of sex with a guru saying if it is with the student’s benefit in mind and with the right view it can be done.”
                I took vows with Rinpoche in 1989 & in all the years since I have only heard him tell us NOT to sleep with our teachers & that he himself did not sleep with his students. Which is not to say practicing the third empowerment with a teacher or being a dedicated partner to a teacher is not a good thing. It can be. Just don’t have sex with your OWN guru.
                I don’t want to undercut your experience; I’m just surprised. I have heard him ask women if they are flirting with him and/ or tell them he is not flirting with them. I don’t know what to think. It makes me a little sad.

                1. Hello Deborah.
                  I’m very sorry if anything I have written has contributed to your feeling sad.
                  It is difficult times for all… but emerging from this inner/outer cloud of negativity I can only say that for me now, the sanest, best thing I can do is hold true to what I know I experienced with my teacher – which at the time was wholly good – and not allow the ephemeral, opportunistic and empty shadows of doubt to take hold. Hold fast to the memory of the good qualities he revealed and remember the blessings and positive fruits. They were tangible, undeniable and potentially limitless.
                  Please don’t let what I or anyone else have said to undermine your own lived experience and faith. That is what I am aiming to rely on henceforth.
                  Hope that helps?
                  I wish you well

                  1. Rose,
                    Thank you for your kindness and compassion. I suppose it is not surprising he sleeps with his students, but I thought he was not. He has misrepresented himself or he has radically changed. I feel deceived but I was deceiving myself.
                    I wish you well.

                    1. Thanks Deborah. I totally understand your pain and confusion. I am still very much working through things myself….
                      I think I was prone to idealism that functioned in a way that may have been quite limiting. I know we are told this but I didn’t really need to draw on it until more recently – allowing that the human guru still has human qualities, interests, some habits, forgetfulness etc. He can still make mistakes. Even so, he is still far down the road spiritually from me and very capable of being a trustworthy guide. (Not obviously speaking of teachers that harm students through self interest as elucidated by Mingyur Rinpoche). So it is also a trust thing and I think we should be able to speak one on one to our teacher about our doubts, concerns etc otherwise we can get very stuck… speaking just from personal experience 🙂 – and it may be the case that you will need and then even receive an apology!
                      More and more I see the ’emptiness’ of the guru as the key – in the spirit of the lady who believed the dog’s tooth to be the Buddha’s. Just reading people’s comments on DKRinpoche shows so clearly the vast range of perceptions and views which to them is the truth and will therefore determine their experience of him. I have experienced a full range of interpretations of Rinpoche myself from very negative to more neutral and very positive… We do have a choice – that is our empowerment.
                      Here, also knowing that our own true nature is the Buddha and the ultimate Guru gives confidence and reduces that hierarchical thing Rinpoche spoke of.
                      Perhaps also, in a way, allowing for a more colourful manifestation of the Guru also allows or gives space to acceptance, compassion or ultimately recognizing the emptiness of one’s own varied and maybe colourful maifiestations!
                      Anyway, I am not in teaching mode – just wanted to share some of my musings with you as a dharma sister because the feeling of being deceived, betrayed, abandoned or whatever is very painful.

                    2. @deborahbouldin,
                      DKR was definitely misrepresenting himself, but I doubt that he changed very much. He has always been a wild guy. You just didn’t happen to see that side of him, which is totally possible.
                      Why blame yourself for any of this? If you had never said anything, someone else would have said something, since there is a lot to say. 🙂

    2. I never heard that they asked Mingyur Rinpoche, and considering his Lion’s Roar article, I doubt they would have asked someone with such strong views on appropriate behaviour.

  5. Just read the post through and have to say ‘bravo’ and thankyou to Cesare.
    Synchronistically, I was contemplating my own negative bias and cynicism just over the last few days and am pleased that am swinging back to a more centred place in my response to DKR.
    I think Cesare does a great job in opening his comment with an overview of DKR approach and role.
    I think it is important to note that Rinpoche’s voice is one of many amongst the Lamas we have heard from and much can be gained by viewing each contribution as a piece of the puzzle – a different facet of a whole.
    I now see the time and effort he is continuing to put in is an expression of compassion actually.

  6. Just coming back to the idea of a “cult”, which is relevant because it was in the title of his talk at Lerab Ling, and because LL is currently suing a lawyer and newspaper who accused them of operating as a cult:
    Objectively, what is the distinction between these two relationships:
    A vajra master whose vajrayana students try to maintain a pure perception of their masters every action, and are proscribed from criticizing or ‘speaking out’ against their master.
    A cult leader who is considered to have divine powers, and cult followers who will stand behind their leader, regardless what actions or behaviors he exhibits.
    It would have been helpful for DKR to simply say, yes. Vajrayana is a cult relationship, but it is one that can only be entered into with full knowledge and consent (although legally, consent cannot be given to perform illegal actions, by definition).

  7. I found the questions asked at Rigpa Paris very pertinent. DKR made lot of diversions not to answer them directly, a little bit like a Public Relations officer. Who cares about the images of the deities and whether the eiffel tower can be considered as a deity.
    This is supposed to be a living tradition. Confronted to situations, the Vajra master is not supposed to have this reaction: let’s see what is written in the tantras, the tantra say only…
    Basically I feel manipulation, cynicism and lack of honesty and integrity. Beware people with this man…

    1. Certainly there is a great deal of sliding away from answering direct questions. I was disappointed with him for this in Paris. The very specific question I answered he answered by referring to something that he has said earlier that was very general, but Rigpa people need it spelt out. They will not make the links themselves because they don’t want to.

  8. @RH,
    DKR doesn’t even know what a cult is. He said that he had to look it up in the dictionary. Since a dictionary only gives a very brief definition, he didn’t really get a very detail overview. Also, he never really answered the question of whether Vajrayana is a cult or not.
    @French Observer,
    Yes, you’re right that DKR answers questions like a politician. I also totally agree with your warning for people to “beware of this man.” He is slippery and untrustworthy, imo, and I wouldn’t trust him as far as one can throw an incense stick!
    I don’t think that OTR has THAT much influence on DKR. I think DKR has a mind of his own and he is no longer so influenced by anybody, except for a very few select teachers that he considers his gurus, such as the former Sakya Trizin, for example. I think ST has more influence on him that anybody else, imo. But having said that, I think DKR is his won man and isn’t really THAT influenced by anybody. he does his own thing and frankly, he seems to have a very high opinion of himself, tempered with fake modesty.

  9. By constantly and willingly ignoring the concerns of people, and constantly making the same smoky reasoning to justify harm, in the same way that members of a family defend a father committing incest to the detriment of the victim (same arguments and same dynamic, same psychological trites ), people will be tired of debates, and will apply the recommendation of HH the Dalaï Lama.
    When misconduct occurs, the Dalai Lama advised, Buddhists should make the misconduct known. “These people do not follow Buddhist advice, Buddhist teachings. Only thing you can do is make public — through newspaper, through radio. Make public.”

  10. Dzongsar’s behavior is toxic too. He makes me wonder if Nyingma Buddhism can be salvaged at all. I am interested in its spiritual tradition, but most of its living examplars seem to be caught up in a few major scandals.
    “The good news is that no one has to listen to anything he [Dzongsar] has to say about anything.”
    If only. You can’t hang around r/Buddhism or without having people regularly post some quote from him, or recommending his books. And whenever he thinks people aren’t talking about him enough, he makes one of those Facebook posts (sort of like Trump on Twitter).
    “If we don’t like that fact about the tradition, then we don’t need to follow the Vajrayana path or engage in a Vajrayana style student-teacher relationship and that is okay.”
    And yet, Tibetan dharma centers are all about promoting the Vajrayana path as well as particular teachers. If you don’t like these, this is tantemount to saying you don’t like Tibetan Buddhism.
    “I cannot see anything in what DJK has written or said so far that justifies or legitimises SR at all.”
    The fact that he sits on Sogyal’s board, and is trying to “rehabilitate” Rigpa marketing-wise, is one clue. The fact that he responds to the scandal with a discussion of samaya rather than ethics is another. In theory, he has the power to fire all the Rigpa administrators who contributed to the problem, and invite the victims’ group to oversee reforms. Or he could close the whole thing down. Instead, he seems to be trying to preserve Rigpa’s market share, and his own position in it.
    “as DJK explained, if you find a teacher that you cannot get close to, then perhaps they aren’t for you.”
    This is rich coming from a man who teaches thousands of people, often over the internet. And a lot of them (maybe most) are Chinese, so Tibetan / Western cultural differences are not the only such divide.

  11. Cesare, as I have said on Facebook, I like the points you stress about DJKR’s views. The things that you admire definitely are things I agree with. I think this situation is difficult for students of DJKR right now, because he has been brought into a fray that wasn’t of his own making (or mostly not of his making.) So in that regard, we don’t even belong in a discussion about his qualifications– because we aren’t his current or prospective students. It looks like we’re cherry picking, just focusing on a few points, a few things he’s said and done, and not looking at the whole– while in fact, those few points, to those of us concerned about the future of Rigpa and the suffering caused by these horrible abuses, take up the whole tree. They are pretty much all that matters when we judge Rigpa’s decision to bring him in as the main advisor right now.
    And before he talks about his vision for the Vajrayana, he MUST address those elephants in the room:
    1. Why have the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche been totally left out of decision making as Rigpa moves forward? Why DJKR and not MR or HHDL?
    2. Why did DJKR say that HHDL did not say what he said about students speaking out critically against their Vajra master? (Was his statement just a polite, Tibetan/Bhutanese cultural way of disagreeing with HH?)
    2. Does DJKR believe that students have been seriously harmed by Sogyal’s sexual and physical abuses? Why has he never spoken compassionately about the harm students have encountered? Why would he make FB posts that mock their suffering if he believed they had been harmed?
    4. And if his FB posts mocking women who want to end sexual abuse were simply to provoke, is he the right person to be leading Rigpa forward at this time? What does that say about Rigpa’s commitment to creating an abuse-free environment?
    5. And what do his statements about the Vajrayana being above the law, and about even murder being permissible by a Vajrayana master, do towards helping Rigpa build an environment that ensures safety?
    And I would also comment that I object to being told that the Vajryana is not for me because I will not relinquish my right to object to sexual and physical abuse.

    1. @ Joanne
      These are all excellent questions. Can you pose them to DJKR and let us know? Better he respond directly.

  12. @Joanne,
    1. Why have the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche been totally left out of decision making as Rigpa moves forward? Why DJKR and not MR or HHDL?
    Answer: Because HHDL and MR are not advisors to Rigpa, nor does Ripa want them as advisors, (their views are too different). They may not want to be advisors to Rigpa either.
    2. Why did DJKR say that HHDL did not say what he said about students speaking out critically against their Vajra master? (Was his statement just a polite, Tibetan/Bhutanese cultural way of disagreeing with HH?)
    Answer: DJKR probably truly believes that HHDL would never say that Vajrayana students should criticize abusive behavior from their tantric guru, after they have made a commitment. He believes that people are misunderstanding or mistranslating HHDL’s words/comments. So I don’t think he is “politely” disagreeing with him. He believes there is no genuine disagreement.
    3. Does DJKR believe that students have been seriously harmed by Sogyal’s sexual and physical abuses? Why has he never spoken compassionately about the harm students have encountered? Why would he make FB posts that mock their suffering if he believed they had been harmed?
    Answer: DJKR doesn’t think Sogyal’s abused students have been really harmed. He thinks they are delusional, which is why he says he as “compassion” for them, which goes beyond just “emotional” reactions. He thinks he sees the bigger picture. He is sorry for them because, in his opinion, they have drifted off the path. He isn’t sorry they were abused. He is sorry because he feels they they have fallen off the path and will be reborn in Vajra hell.
    4. And if his FB posts mocking women who want to end sexual abuse were simply to provoke, is he the right person to be leading Rigpa forward at this time? What does that say about Rigpa’s commitment to creating an abuse-free environment?
    Answer: Rigpa has no commitment to create an abuse-free environment. They want to just safe their behinds and put someone in who reflects their views and get on with business as usual. DJKR is the last person who should take over Rigpa, but as he himself always says, (and no one believes him because they think he is just kidding/being modest), he is ambitious and so he see this as an opportunity to further his own “career” as a lama.
    5. And what do his statements about the Vajrayana being above the law, and about even murder being permissible by a Vajrayana master, do towards helping Rigpa build an environment that ensures safety?
    Answer: His statements do nothing to ensure the “safety” of anybody! I think students should just leave Rigpa and find better teachers. DJKR seems to be the chosen one to take over, so if students decide to stay, they are going to get DJKR, for better or worse.

  13. @Joanne,
    “And I would also comment that I object to being told that the Vajryana is not for me because I will not relinquish my right to object to sexual and physical abuse.”
    Which means that DJKR is not the right teacher for you, thank heavens, lol! 😀
    If you had the (mis)fortune of having him as your tantric guru, he would probably tell you that you must submit to ANY kind of treatment from him. At the very least, he would expect you to make aspirations to be able to submit to anything he does in a future lifetime.

  14. @Joanne,
    He would keep you very busy doing 100,000s of prostrations and purification mantras to cleanse away whatever “obstacle’ is keeping you from being able to obey him without question. 😀

  15. About the word “Cinderella” used by DJKR, we can refer to “The Sword of Wisdom” by Mipham Rinpoche, translated by Adam Pearcy (Thanks for this wonderful work) :
    71. When it comes to the meaning of what is taught,
    You should know the PROVISIONAL AND DEFINITIVE,
    And rely not on any provisional meaning,
    But only on the meaning that has certain truth.
    However before that :
    63. Therefore do not rely on individuals,
    But rely upon the Dharma.
    Freedom comes from the genuine path that is taught,
    Not from the one who teaches it.
    64. When the teachings are well presented,
    It does not matter what the speaker is like.
    Even the bliss-gone buddhas themselves
    Appear as butchers and such like to train disciples.
    Then however eloquent a speaker may seem,
    He will bring you no real benefit,
    Like a demon assuming Buddha’s form.
    1. I’m asking myself why DJZR didn’t use the proper term “provisional meaning”, “Cinderella” sounds quite cynical (Ah, Yes he is confronting !).
    2. The difficulty in this debate is that Rigpa and survivors (from Rigpa and other Buddhist lineage) disagree on point 65, explicitly or from the deep of their guts.
    3. Rigpa, DJZR and some other Buddhists think “crazy wisdom’s skilful means”, while the survivors (who are quite aware of the lies and the harm they went through) think “how I’m going to survive to the trauma and the wreckage ?”.
    4. We are stuck. Rigpa (like many Tibetan Lamas who are abusers, and those who support them) don’t go further than verbiage : “That’s not to say no actions are wrong or right on the conventional level because they are, and they should be opposed and rectified or cultivated and promoted, respectively, in ourselves, others, organisations and society at large.” (quote from Cesare’s post above) – Yes, some survivors are still waiting… many are no more waiting.
    Without ill will or resentment for anyone, but with compassion and love. I wish you all a wonderful path to Enlightenment.
    Thanks a lot Tahlia for this Blog which help many people, and for you courage.

    1. And thanks for that quote. It’s good to have the source. I agree that the words ‘Cinderella’ teachings was inflamatory, and if DZK wants to be taken seriously he needs to use the proper words. Really HE should know better.

      1. Picture this: His Holiness the Dalai Lama giving a Buddhist teaching in an auditorium. During his teaching, he suddenly says that some of the Buddhist teachings are just “Cinderella” teachings and Buddha didn’t really mean them. They were just stories the Buddha made up to make people feel good, lol! Then he goes on to say that only SOME of the Buddhas teachings were teachings he actually meant. Can you imagine how weird it would sound?!?!?
        Why do people accept it when DKR makes such bizarre statements?!?!? He sounds absolutely crazy when he says things like that! The more he tries to clear things up when he puts his foot in his mouth, the worse it gets.

  16. I read all the litany of abuse by Sogyal with great sadness, I believe the allegations and I think Sogyal has failed to address the suffering his actions have caused. That said I went with a relatively open mind to “The Future of Buddhism: Challenges and Opportunities in Modern Society” by Dzongsar Khyentse hosted by Rigpa in London today (Sunday 11 March 2018)
    Dzongsar Khyentse said very clearly in his concluding remarks:
    “I’ve learned a lot, I learnt how much we have overlooked
    I have kept all your questions I will translate into Tibetan for the monks, I don’t know if they will listen
    I have been moved by the students, when you grow up in the West you don’t even have a prayer flag near …
    Tibetans don’t have exclusive rights on the Dharma
    There has been some expressions, venting on my Facebook
    I appreciate it, many people have helped make us aware
    I have to thank the people for their direct questions
    We can’t deny that people have suffered, whether their suffering is correct or not is different, there is suffering … It isn’t enough to just say “everything is illusion” – skip your lunch and you are hungry
    You can’t say hunger is “emptiness”
    There has been pain
    Rinpoche has to address this
    Vajra brother and sisters have to address this …”
    Earlier he said:
    “In Berlin it took me by surprise when someone asked what do I think of Sogyal personally
    I’m not his student
    I’m a defiled human being and I have judgement about what Sogyal was doing, I have thought … “Why is he doing this?”
    Rigpa have done many good things … introduced many great masters to the west.
    Some say of my talks “Is this another gimmick of Sogyal?”
    Rigpa always been a big vessel for so many lamas to come and teach
    Buddhism is barely 100 years in the West, you have to really appreciate what Rigpa has done for the Dharma
    You have to deal with it
    Senior students took the decision to do this , some might say it is another scheme but there are good steps being taken
    Don’t jump to conclusions”
    “… vajrayana has 14 root vows
    2nd most important vow if you go against the words of the Buddha including the sraveka vows, you break the vajrayana vow
    4th if you abandon compassion, you break the vow
    … the rules and laws of the country apply … don’t think that there are some secular Buddhist laws

    I accept that I am very opinionated, but at least we have begun to open some discussion and thinking process about the vajrayana ”
    “People talked of forming a Guru Guild to issue licenses
    Democratically elected guru – not a good idea, you will already have Trump
    If you have democratically elected gurus, you will have me. I’m a Gemini we can sell ice cream to Eskimos …”
    Dzongsar Khyentse has his own style of presentation but he emphasised he was still learning and shared a quote he had recently read:
    “It is impossible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end”
    (I share these notes, taken from the talk, so any errors are mine, but I hope they can bring some support to those who have suffered and are suffering, it does seem to me that there is a change happening in the Dharma world and there is cause for hope the future will be better.)

    1. Thank you David, that is promising. That is a shift from the lama who once wrote (something to the effect of) “like it or not, that’s the way it is.” (e.g. lamas can murder, students can’t speak out) I am sure he is still holding fast to the “never criticize” part of samaya, but here he is acknowledging harm (finally!) and that things are not simple, not black and white, and that maybe the situation requires some thinking out of the box. Maybe. That’s very good.

      1. Is DJKR really acknowledging harm ?
        David quotes : “We can’t deny that people have suffered, whether their suffering is correct or not is different, ”
        Weird ! What is a correct suffering ?
        There has never been any mention of harm, in any of the talks, unless I missed something.

    2. Dzongsar Khyentse is just learning how to “tone down” his conservative fundamentalism (because he realizes that if he doesn’t, people are going to leave Tibetan Buddhism, and him in particular, in droves). He is not having a change of heart or a change of tune. He is simply adjusting his way of talking to appease his audience and to win them over. I still don’t trust a word he says and I don’t think he is being honest. He already said what he thought and when that was very unpopular with a LOT of people, I think that took him by surprise, and he started changing his approach, (but not his heart). He is just doing what politicians do. He is saying what he thinks people want to hear, because he realizes that he has become very unpopular. He even admitted that he is likely to change his tune if he is unliked, because he is attached to being liked and wants to be popular, etc. Again, people think he is just kidding when he ,makes comments like this, but he isn’t. He fully admits his shortcomings, even though he knows only too well that people aren’t going to take his warnings seriously. That’s why he doesn’t mind giving these warnings. I wish people would take them seriously and watch out around this man.

      1. Some people take the word of such people as gospel and for them it doesn’t matter if he is “adjusting his way of talking to appease his audience and to win them over” they just hear the words, and so if he is saying that harm has been done, they will believe it regardless of what he really believes, so I take this as a good thing. And if he does adjust according to our outcry, that is also good, because adjustment is what we need here. That we have one lama who is reading what people are saying on social media and is concerned about it, is a good sign, and that he is saying how much the Tibetans have stuffed up is also a good sign. It is only a step in the right direction, though, we have still have a long way to go before the lines are as clearly drawn as they must be to ensure a healthy vajrayana stripped of the institutionalised abuse it has carried from it’s time in Tibet.

        1. Hi Tahlia,
          I used the contact form a couple of days ago requesting all my comments under the Karma, Impermanence posting be removed for sincere personal reasons. I understand mods are busy and may have not yet been able to respond but also not sure if my message was received?
          I’d be very grateful if these comments could be removed.
          Thank you

        2. He isn’t really saying that wrong has been done. He is just acknowledging that people suffered. Then he even said something about whether their suffering was “correct” or not. What he is really saying is that people suffered because of their delusions and “wrong views” about Sogyal, not because Sogyal did anything wrong. So he doesn’t really acknowledge any abuse at all. I don’t see anything heartening about anything he is saying, and frankly I hope people don’t fall for it. Just because he has polished it up a bit so it doesn’t *sound* quite as bad, that doesn’t mean he has changed his tune. The fact that a lama would spend so much time worrying about what people are saying about him on social media is not very heartening to me either. For a Buddhist who is supposed to not care about the 8 Worldly Concerns, I never saw anyone who cares more about whether he is being praised, blamed, has a good reputation, or a bad one, etc.

  17. Dzongsar and Sogyal are the products of a system which selects lamas on the basis of their family connections, and trains them in what amounts to an apprentice system. (Doctors were once trained this way as well.) There is no oversight, either from above or below–only an informal degree of self-policing which, as in many professions, doesn’t happen very often. (They’d have to create such a stink that intervention becomes unavoidable.)
    Some alternatives would be a “Catholic” (or Gelugpa, in the case of the larger monasteries) system in which monks are supervised by a hierarchy of their seniors; or a “Protestant” system in which lay Buddhists control the dharma center through some sort of vestry or pulpit committee, and effectively hire (or fire) the lama. Here we see differences of ethos between, for example, liturgical Protestant churches which expect their pastors to be highly educated (as neither man is), vs. low-church ones in which the pastor’s personal charisma is most important.
    In Christianity (and Judaism, and Islam) these details have been argued and fought over. In export Tibetan Buddhism, not so much. The question of democracy / lay governance is prominent in religious circles, especially progressive ones, but few of us ask such structural questions about the businesses we patronize (perhaps because they demand less from us in the way of allegiance). In a better world Sogyal and Dzongsar would be regarded as unqualified and never fired, or at least fired for cause.

  18. PS. Of course, any system can be subverted. Rigpa had a board, but its trustees did not really exercise oversight, since they were selected on the basis of their fealty to Sogyal. (The equivalent often happens in low Protestant churches, which can even be “taken over” by outside groups.) And hierarchical oversight obviously failed to ensure ethical standards in the Catholic case.
    Imagine if we applied the same Tibetan Buddhist rhetoric to courtship behavior. Of course one must exercise great caution in the choice of a romantic partner, but magical notions of “love at first sight” or “fate brought us together” are also promoted, and to improve the analogy, we would also have to insist that once a partner has been chosen, they may never break up, no matter what abuse they suffer.
    And since not everybody can be a lama (we do not typically bow to our postal carriers, for example), but are taught to gravitate to people (especially Asian people) wearing certain robes and religious regalia, perhaps we should stipulate that “love at first sight” be directed mainly at some visible subsect of humanity–electric guitar players, perhaps.

    1. @beidawei,
      Except that to many Buddhists, the lamas ARE the “rock stars” and the “guitar players.” people in Buddhist circles just replace regular celebrities with Buddhist celebrities.

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