How to Follow a Spiritual Teacher in a Healthy Way

I was inspired to write my take on how to follow a spiritual teacher in a healthy way when someone directed me to a long post on Facebook by Dzongsar Kyentse (DJK) in which he offered the tantric (vajrayana) Drubthab Kuntu cycle of teachings and initiations. He said, among other things, “For those in limbo, wondering whether or not they should do this, I suggest following the tantric prescription to do a thorough background check on me. There are plenty of websites you can consult, and you might particularly want to read posts by Tahlia Newland, Matthew Remski, Joanne Clark and others.”

What do I think about that?

He’s being quite open about what he expects from the students who take up his offer, and that’s refreshing. And yet – as a cynical ex-Tibetan Buddhist – I can’t help wondering if it is genuine openess or a subtle manipulation to make the teachings and relationship with the teacher more ‘special’ and so more appealing to those who relish being the ‘chosen few’. It’s a common dynamic in spiritual groups that lures people into the cult’s ‘inner circle’. Such manipulation may be quite unconcious, and someone – be they the teacher or the student – is only free of it if they are aware of the lure of it from both sides. This is why both teacher and student need to be educated in cult dynamics to ensure a healthy relationship.

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Why Some Tibetan Buddhist Practictioners Can’t See Abuse as Abuse

When eight of his students wrote a combined letter that exposed Sogyal Rinoche’s abuse, I was initially amazed at how some people simply couldn’t see what he did as abuse. I figured that once it was out in the open, everyone would see how his behaviour constituted abuse. I was wrong, and some today still cannot recognise his behaviour as abuse, despite the independent report undertaken by the renowned law firm Lewis Silkin saying:

Based on the evidence available to me, I am satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities:
a. some students of Sogyal Lakar (who were part of the ‘inner circle’, as described later in this report) have been subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him; and
b. there were senior individuals within Rigpa who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.

KAREN BAXTER, PARTNER, LEWIS SILKIN LLP, 22 August 2018

Why are some people so blind that they cannot see that the beatings, sexual coercion, and emotional and psychological abuse mentioned in the report are abuse, and that Sogyal’s actions did harm the people who were the focus of his lust and tantrums?

Though many have revised their opinon, the lack of the word ‘abuse’ in Rigpa’s renewed apology indicates that some still in power in Rigpa still cannot admit that Sogyal did abuse people. Why is this? And why does it mean that the last apology they gave (see my post on it here) is likely the best they can do?

These are the questions I attempt to answer in this video.

For more detail on the beliefs I mention, see section 2 of my book, Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism.

And for a historical perspective on Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse, see Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche

Image by MichaelRaab from Pixabay

Poison is Medicine: Has Dzongsar Khyentse Clarified or Muddied the Waters?

Today we have a post by Joanne Clark as a follow up to her last post on Dzongsar Khyentse and nihilism.

“In our practice, we may view the guru’s behavior as that of a mahasiddha, but in the   conventional world we follow the general Buddhist approach, and if a certain behavior is harmful, we should say so.”

HH Dalai Lama, The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Leaving the Boat Too Early

In Dzongsar’s recent publication, Poison is Medicine, which is based on teachings that he gave in Rigpa Centres following the revelations of abuses by Sogyal Lakhar, his intention is to clarify “the misunderstandings and misapprehensions about the Vajrayana that were exposed by the Vajrayana guru-related scandals of the 2010s.” (Poison is Medicine; vii) By “scandals”, I presume he means “abuses.” However, with statements such as the following, I question what clarity can result:

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Rigpa’s Renewed Apology & the Teaching on the Four Powers of Confession

Rigpa’s renewed apology, published in the middle of October 2021, for ‘mistakes that have been made and harm that has been caused’ is a step in the right direction, but in the video I explain why it still falls short of what is required even in terms of their own teachings. I refer to the four powers of confession that according to Vajrasattva practice – a key practice of the Rigpa sangha – are necessary for healing to occur.

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After Tibetan Buddhism, What Remains?

After Tibetan Buddhism, after you’ve left the religion, what happens to your spiritual life?

After Tibetan Buddhism. Girl walking away.
Image by Jose Antonio Alba from Pixabay

I was a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for 20 years and left the religion 5 years ago when I discovered that my teacher Sogyal Rinpoche was abusing his close students and those running the organisation not only enabled it but also saw his abuse as a beneficial teaching, not something harmful. In the video below, I reflect on what of value has remained with me and how I view the religion now in light of my knowledge of abusive gurus/lamas, the cult dynamics they often employ, and the teachings that enable abuse.

Joanne Clark’s article about Dzongsar Kyentse Rinpoche and Mathew Remski’s recent article on him inspired this video, so I do mention Dzongsar Kyentse, and if you’re one of his followers, be warned; I don’t hold back on my opinion of him. I’ve never said anything against him before, despite him ridiculing me in one of his teachings in Rigpa centres after the letter revealing Sogyal’s abuses became public.

It’s a long video (40 minutes) because I cover a lot of ground, so I hope you can take time to watch or listen to it.

The answer to the question of what remains from the tradition after Tibetan Buddhism and your perceptions of Tibetan Buddhism and its lamas after you’ve left will be different for different people, so please note that this is only my personal opinion and evaluation of my own experience. I know that some have been left with nothing but trauma after Tibetan Buddhism, and some are still struggling to sift through their experience and find anything worth keeping.

Though I share my understanding of dzogchen practice, please don’t take anything I say as any kind of teaching. My purpose in sharing my perspective is to provide the stimulation for you to reflect on these matters for yourself.

Please like the video and share it as it helps get it to more people.

If you were a Tibetan Buddhist and have left the religion, what has remained for you?

Dzongsar Khyentse & his Dance with Nihilism

broken buddha

Today we have a post by Joanne Clark inspired by the release of Dzongsar Khyentse’s latest book. Thank you, Joanne. It’s high time we challenged Dzongsar Khyentse for his support of abusive behaviour by vajrayana masters. Dzongsar Khyentse’s followers show all the signs of people caught in a destructive cult, which might tell us why Dzongsar Khyentse is so intent on supporting abuse as a legitimate part of his religion – at least for the varjayana student-teacher relationship. Read on for Joanne’s article.


“The late Professor Joshi in his book, he cites one of the factors that led to the degeneration of Buddhism inside India was the popularization of tantric practices, particularly leading to unethical behavior.” HH Dalai Lama

It is possible that Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse has reached a point of realization whereby he can sit down to a meal of faeces and a drink of urine and consume it as if enjoying a delicious feast. It is possible then that he could rape a princess in the same manner that Tilopa killed fish, such that no harm would result.[1]

In the same way, it is possible that his Vajrayana students, those who have taken vows of pure perception, are advanced enough in their own realizations that they are no longer at risk of confusing the madyamaka views on emptiness with nihilism—no longer at risk of failing to maintain a coherent view of conventional truth and karmic laws of cause and effect and failing to recognize harm as harm.

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My ‘Journey to Diamond Peak’ & How it Became an NFT Ebook

Why might you make a book into an NFT ebook? This video tells you about the first four books I wrote while inspired by the vision of Tibetan Buddhism. It also talks a bit about my journey as an author, how it relates to my journey out of Tibetan Buddhism and why you might want to invest in the Journey to Diamond Peak NFT ebook.

What I didn’t say in the video, but is actually quite important when it comes to NFTs, is that people buy them as investments. (You can buy and then on-sell them). One of the reasons for this is that they’re historical records. They mark and hold moments in time in the epheneral world of digital culture, and that gives them value that will acrue as time progresses, particularly if the digital art marks something of relevance for a movement of some kind – the beginning of a new art movement for instance. Journey to Diamond Peak is one of the first 14 NFT ebooks ever created, for that alone, it should one day give a return on your investment. If not for you, then for your descendents. The spiritual significance of the story, will also, I belive, be recognised one day.

But then, I could be delusional.

What is an NFT Ebook?

See a short video here: https://booksgosocial.com/2021/07/04/what-is-an-ebook-nft/

A bit here about the value of NFT ebooks: https://booksgosocial.com/2021/06/25/how-bgs-nft-ebooks-are-a-great-deal-for-readers/

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.

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How to Deal with a Narcissist

If we had known how to deal with a narcissist before getting close to Sogyal Rinpoche, would we have avoided the worst of him? Did those who avoided being abused by him do these kinds of things naturally? I’d love to read your answers to these questions.

I certainly kept my distance, even when I was asked to be national director many years ago. I said, ‘No,’ because I could see how it was for those in that role. I didn’t see anything other than the verbal abuse and the relentless driving of his team, but it was enough for me to know that I didn’t want to be in that role – no matter how much it was supposed to hasten my journey to enlightenment. Knowing what I know now, that Sogyal Rinpoche physically, emotionally, sexually and financially abused his close students, I’m really glad I stayed out of any role that would have brought me into his orbit.

Many weren’t so lucky! I hope these points on how to deal with a narcissist will protect you in future – even if the person trying to manipulate you might not fit all the boxes for narcissistic personality disorder. It’s not only narcissists who try to manipulate us.

The notes I referred to in the video are below.

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Do you Recognise these Narcissistic Methods of Manipulation?

People with narcissistic personality disorder manipulate those around them to coerce, diminish and take advantage of them.

By spotting how narcissists distort facts, language, feelings and ideas to you can gain distance from them which makes it easier to set healthy boundaries against them.

The notes I used are below the video.

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