Students Respond to the Latest News from Rigpa: "Content to Wait and See."

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I was extremely pleased with the two letters received by the Rigpa Sangha on April 11, one announcing Sogyal Rinpoche’s resignation as spiritual director of the organisation, and the other explaining the position of the Rigpa management and how they intended to proceed.
After His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that Sogyal Rinpoche had been disgraced and that his students had done the right thing in publicising his unethical behaviour, stepping down was the only way to give Rigpa, the organisation, a chance to continue without continuing to be tainted by Sogyal Rinpoche’s unethical actions into the future. Now that he has done this, it is clearly the students’ responsibility to clean up the organisation. Rinpoche suggested that Rigpa could continue by bringing a range of teachers to the West from all the Tibetan traditions, a direction I always saw as the way forward for the organisation. So I feel this is very good.
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Rigpa Announces Plans for Independent Investigation of Abuse Allegations

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Note:  We are publishing this letter from Sogyal Rinpoche to the worldwide sangha especially for the benefit of those students who have been impacted by the allegations of abuse in Rigpa but are not currently on the Rigpa mailing list.
11 August 2017
Dear Sangha Friends,
The past few weeks have been a very distressing time for our whole Sangha. The allegations that have been made against Sogyal Rinpoche by members of our own community, and which have spread widely in the media and on the internet, are of extreme concern to us all.
By now, you will have received the letter from Sogyal Rinpoche in which he announces his formal retirement from Rigpa as spiritual director. His decision comes as a shock to many of us, and its magnitude cannot be overstated. Rinpoche has made it clear that this decision has only been made after deep personal reflection, seeking the advice of many of his masters, and with the best intention for the future of our community.
For those of us who hold roles of responsibility within Rigpa, this has been and continues to be a challenging time. Not only have we been digesting the shock and emotion of the current situation for ourselves; we have recognized our immediate responsibility to reach out to as many people as possible and offer our support. Over the past weeks, many of us have been trying our best to listen to everyone in our diverse community, and to take on board the wide-ranging impact of these allegations as well as Rinpoche’s decision to enter retreat and step back from Rigpa’s work.

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Sogyal Rinpoche Retires As Spiritual Director of Rigpa

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Note:  We are publishing this letter from Sogyal Rinpoche to the worldwide sangha especially for the benefit of those students who have been impacted by the allegations of abuse in Rigpa but are not currently on the Rigpa mailing list.
11 August 2017

Dear Rigpa Sangha,
I address this letter to all my students and especially to those who hold positions of responsibility on the board of directors of the different Rigpa organizations worldwide.
You are of course aware of the allegations that have been brought against me which have now been made widely public on the internet. This has brought shock and consternation not only to me, but also to a great many of you who are my students and who serve Rigpa and its vision.
I have already communicated to you my decision to enter retreat and step back from the work of Rigpa, in view of the turbulence that these accusations have caused. This instinct has been confirmed to me by many of the masters whom I turn to for spiritual advice and by my most trusted students. I feel that in so doing, space will be created for the right kind of clarity to be brought to bear.
Furthermore, given my deep concern for you all and the work of Rigpa, which you have all contributed towards immensely, I feel the best course of action for me now is to formally announce my retirement as spiritual director of Rigpa. I do not wish the criticism that has been brought against me to jeopardise all that.

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Mingyur Rinpoche Clarifies Ethics in the Student-Teacher Relationship

Mingyur RinpocheMingyur Rinpoche has provided important clarifications about the role of ethics in Buddhism and in particular, about ethics in the student-teacher relationship in a recent Lion’s Roar article published on August 9th. In the introduction to the article, he says,   “The one time people ask me about ethics is when scandals or controversies happen in Buddhist communities.”
He answers critical questions in this piece, ones plaguing the minds of many Rigpa students, including whether it’s okay to leave a teacher and how to do so, how to respond when a teacher appears to be committing serious ethical violations, and how to differentiate between “crazy wisdom” and abuse.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a master of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.  Sogyal Rinpoche holds him in the highest regard, and once asked him to guide his students in the future. In his letter to the Rigpa sangha, penned after allegations of abuse surfaced, Sogyal Rinpoche said he would especially seek advice from Mingyur Rinpoche.
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Dalai Lama Speaks Out About Sogyal Rinpoche

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Recently, author and journalist Michaela Haas asked the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for a statement about the current situation in Rigpa, in particular the allegations of abuse made by 8 former and current students.
In response, they referred to the following remarks the Dalai Lama gave at the Inauguration of Seminar on ‘Buddhism in Ladakh’ on August 1, 2017.
This is a transcript of his remarks.  There’s a video clip of this part of his address at the end of this post.
It can be helpful to listen to the video in addition to reading the transcript so you can hear the emphasis the Dalai Lama gives certain points.  For example, he’s quite adamant when he says, “That’s totally wrong,” in reference to following a spiritual teacher blindly.
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A Letter to Rigpa International Regarding Allegations of Abuse

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Dear Vinciane, Sophie, Alex, Eric, Gill, and Catherine,

Thank you for your recent ‘reaching out to each other email’ (to view the email, scroll down to the second entry), which asked us to share our thoughts and suggestions about the letter sent to Sogyal Rinpoche from 8 students alleging abuse, and his response.
Please let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. I have been a student of Sogyal Rinpoche for thirty years, attended the 3-year retreat, and am currently a member of the Dzogchen Mandala. I was a Rigpa Director for 13 years and an instructor for 7 years.
I completely understand how difficult all this must be for you, as I was in a leadership position during the 1994-95 lawsuit against Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa. My heart is with you as you navigate these troubled waters, just as it is with those who have suffered.
Before I can share my thoughts and suggestions about the letter sent to Sogyal Rinpoche and his response, I feel I need to share concerns about your email communication to the sangha.
I’m deeply grateful you have reached out to open up dialogue concerning the allegations of abuse. I trust you have the best of intentions so please do not take my remarks as personal criticism. But I think you need to take these thoughts into consideration if you want to establish a forum for honest and full communication.
Here are my thoughts and suggestions, a bit of what I’ve heard from others, about your email:
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Breaking the Veil of Silence that Hides and Sustains Abuse

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Abuse is particularly painful to confront when in a spiritual context. Why? Because it’s so hard to believe that those we trust with guiding us spiritually, those that talk about morality or ethics don’t abide by those principles themselves. We trust that, as spiritual advocates, they will have the practitioners’ best interests at heart. When presented with testimonies that indicate otherwise, we simply find it hard to believe.
“But he is such a nice man,” we say. We can’t believe that there is another side to him that only the victims of his abuse see. And we don’t want to confront the possibility that it’s true. Especially if the person accused is someone close to us: our husband, our brother, our father, our revered teacher. Paedophilias get away with their abuse for years because of this.
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How Some Students Responded to Allegations of Abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche

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As you can imagine, responses to the letter containing allegations of abuse in Rigpa varied widely.  Some expressed anger that the behavior of their teacher could ever be questioned and faulted the 8 signers.  Others felt relieved this information had finally come to light.  And still others said they’re were slowly progressing through the five classic stages of grief as defined by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Following is just a small sampling of the many affirmative responses to the letter.  The intention behind sharing them is to help others feel less alone, especially if you feel conflicted or in pain.  Hopefully, these words will also help arouse compassion for the genuine suffering that has occurred. Continue reading “How Some Students Responded to Allegations of Abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche”

You Might Be Okay with Violence, but I'm Not

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During August of 2016, Sogyal Lakar gut-punched a nun in front of an assembly of more than 1,000 students at the Lerab Ling Retreat Center in France. Recently, the nun responded to allegations that this constitutes abuse, saying this is an acceptable part of her Buddhist training.
These are thoughts on the matter from Constance O’Mara, now a former Rigpa student:
She might be okay with violence being perpetrated against her, but I’m not. Nor is our society. There was a Muslim woman in the news recently saying being hit by her husband was okay and a blessing. Our law says otherwise. So perhaps there’s another way he can bless her?
Me leaving the Rigpa organisation (and taking my dollars with me) is a statement of a clear position on the unacceptability of violence. There’s enough suffering in the world (and in our own heads) already without purposefully inflicting it upon ourselves and others.
We need to consider the impact on the witnesses too. Human beings are naturally altruistic. Seeing someone assaulted creates a flight or fright response. It does not settle the mind. It stirs it up. And if it doesn’t, that is not called enlightenment, it’s called ‘desensitisation to violence’.
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A Message for Rigpa International and National Rigpa Organizations on Handling Allegations of Abuse

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Dear Senior Students, Instructors and Administrators,
What you say and do right now is of upmost importance, given the current crisis surrounding allegations of abuse.  Many people are waiting and watching to see how Sogyal Rinpoche, Rigpa International and National Rigpa organizations respond after SR’s initial letter to the sangha, to decide whether to remain a Rigpa student or to leave.
Silence, denial, and exclusion of certain voices may very well tip people further and further away from Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa or cause them to leave entirely.
For example, here’s feedback offered by one student after the first delayed stream of the Ngondro Retreat in Lerab Ling:

“Not once in recent weeks had I lost interest in being a part of the Rigpa Sangha. I consistently felt optimism about the possibility for connection and renewal offered by the cracking-open that is underway.

That came crashing down when I saw ‘The Important Message Regarding the Delayed Streaming’ at the outset of the delayed streaming of the Ngondro Retreat.

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