Who or What Is Your Refuge? A Practice View.

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The foundation of the Buddhist spiritual path is refuge. It’s also the start of any Vajrayana practice, and so how we relate to and experience refuge is very important. If we see our refuge as a human being, that refuge is fallible; such a refuge will die, and before then they may disappoint us, may turn out not to be the reliable being we thought they were. Sound familiar?
But refuge in Buddhadharma is supposed to be an infallible refuge. It’s supposed to be a refuge that is always there and always reliable. But it’s very easy, especially when a teacher encourages you to see him as the object of refuge—‘Do you know who I really am?’—to make your refuge the human teacher, so when your faith in the human is shattered, your refuge crumbles as well, and it brings your whole practice down with it.
But that won’t happen if you understand that ultimately your refuge is not and never was a human being that can fail you. Even on the surface level, the lama is only one small part of the whole picture. Let’s look at the practice itself:

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Feedback and Constructive Suggestions from a Group of Concerned Students

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A small group of Australian students is attempting to get this letter, which expresses their concerns, requests, and constructive suggestions, to SL.  22 more student voices from the What Now? Facebook Group agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter.
This group of 13 Australian Dz and Ng mandala students had 2 weeks warning of the contents of the recent email from long term students on the issue of abuse in our sangha. We have met twice in this period to process our mutual pain and concerns, and to begin a dialogue on what this means for the sangha.
In the first meeting we shared feelings of shock, confusion, anger, betrayal of trust, bitter disappointment and sadness.  All stated vehemently their continuing faith in the teachings, love for R, and gratitude for all he has done for us, but made a clear distinction between the teacher and the behaviour. We feel strongly that no one is above the law.
What follows are notes from the second meeting of the points that we all agreed on. As a small group, we were able to mobilise quickly, and we hope that the results of our discussion will help in the process of healing for all concerned:
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Privacy

The letter was written to Sogyal Lakar. A copy of the letter was shared with longterm Rigpa students, and some senior Tibetan Buddhist lamas. We have not shared it publicly or with the media.  Sharing the letter publicly is a violation of the wishes of the signers.
 

Confused or Conflicted? What the Dalai Lama Says About Teachers and Unethical Behavior

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Feeling confused or conflicted?
You may have received teachings that tell you to see the teacher as a Buddha and all his actions as skillful means, enlightened activity, or crazy wisdom.  On the other hand, you may have experienced, observed, or heard about behaviors on the teacher’s part that seem outrageous and perhaps, even unethical.
Is it crazy wisdom?  Is it abuse?  Should you stay silent?  Should you question?  Should you speak out?
These kinds of questions can silently torment a student for months and even years.  The deep appreciation you feel for all that you’ve received — teachings that may have brought meaning to your life in inexpressible ways — pulls you in one direction.  The questionable behavior pulls you in another.  And fear of repercussions, like criticism, exile from your community or the threat of vajra hell, can keep you paralyzed.
Let’s look to the Dalai Lama for guidance on how to approach what appears to be unethical behavior by a teacher.   The Dalai Lama gave very clear instructions about this at the 1993 Western Buddhist Teachers Conference.
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What the hell are we going to do now?

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Concerned about a certain letter you read recently?
Here is where you can share your concerns, your personal experience, your beliefs, and your support for those who have so bravely come forward and shared their testimonies. Even if you disagree with their perception, please honour how painful their experiences have been and how difficult it is for them to break the silence. Honour their truth.

Emotions

On hearing this for the first time, I experienced shock, anger, betrayal, bitter disappointment and finally sadness, so please support your dharma brothers and sisters as you pass through whatever this situation raises for you. You may read words written from intense emotional states, and that’s fine. Honour them, but don’t get caught up in them. Let them come, and let them go.
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