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.
One of the things I learned about in the year after I discovered that Sogyal Rinpoche abused his close students was narcissistic personality disorder. In order to avoid potential abuse, all spiritual seekers should examine the question, is your guru a narcissist? Or was he or she a narcissist?
Narcissists are everywhere, and they are dangerous people who manipulate others for their own gain. They are masters at coercive control and often become abusive. If you know what to look for, you can see the signs of narcissistic personality disorder in people around you. Donald Trump is a good example of someone with narcissistic personality disorder and so was Sogyal Rinpoche.
I think it’s vital that we all know how to spot a narcissist so we can avoid being manipulated by one. They are able to be very charming, loving and alluring when it suits them, so it’s easy to get sucked in.
Charlotte Ward and David Voas first coined the term “conspirituality” in 2011, to describe the merger of conspiracy theories and New Age spirituality. I like to put a hyphen between the con and spirituality because it is a con. Spirituality is conscripted into the service of gurus and influencers concerned only with their success in terms of numbers of followers, who can then be turned into paying customers. When these gurus start espousing conspiracy theories, their followers – if they’re not critical thinkers and misinformation resilient – tend to believe them, and so the theories proliferate. Fact or fiction, the more people share them, the more people believe them. It’s easy to share that meme or opinion because it seems okay on the surface, but not checking it carefully before sharing is dangerous, for us and for society.
Just look at Trump’s conspiracy theory about the 2020 election. The result is the destabilisation of American society and an assault on the Capitol building.
The Tibetan Buddhist teachings warn that where there is the greatest potential for enlightenment there is also the greatest chance of delusion. If you embark on the spiritual path without correct understanding of the subtle concepts involved, your desire to ‘wake up’ to your true self could lead you deeper into delusion. This is why they say that Vajrayana and Dzogchen should only be undertaken with a qualitied teacher who can make sure that the student doesn’t misunderstand the subtle teachings. But it also applies to any level of spiritual study and practice.
In response to my request for artwork that expresses one’s spiritual journey or awareness, artist William C. Johnson, sent in this pencil piece inspired by his Shamatha practice. It may not be the kind of image you’d usually associate with meditation – no cliched sunrises and lotus flowers here – but spend some time sitting with it and allow the imagery to wash over you before reading William’s commentary on the piece below the image. Regardless of what we see or don’t see in it, as an artist myself, I know that the act of drawing it in pencil is meditation. Meditation that produces a physical result.
We see reality though the filter of our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. When beliefs don’t align with reality, they distort perception. This is why, according to the Buddhist teachings, one of the obscurations we need to dissolve if we are to be enlightened – i.e., see reality directly – is the cognitive obscurations, the area of beliefs.
It’s why when we meditate, we train in not labelling or thinking about what we perceive, we simply see, simply hear, simply be without engaging our conceptual mind. But even those who practice this in their meditation find it hard to practice in daily life, especially if they hold tight to beliefs that aren’t in alignment with reality. And sometimes those beliefs are the very beliefs that were designed to point them in the direction of reality.
Look at those in the US who believe that Trump won the election.
This morning I went for a swim in the rain, then I wrote what I guess you could call a piece of contemplative poetry. I share it, not because it is anything special, but because it’s not. I want to celebrate the ordinary, the freedom of not trying to be anything, of not seeking, not chasing after peace or enlightenment or anything else, just being me – whatever that is. Not knowing is fine. Not defining anything is fine. Everything is fine, even when it’s not.
Thanks to Jo Green for the following post about the Charity Commission enquiry into Rigpa UK. I hope you’ll take the action he suggests at the end to hold Rigpa UK to account. Australian residents could do the same with the Australian Charity Commission as well.
The Charity Commission enquiry into Rigpa UK
The report of the Inquiry by the Charity Commission for England and Wales into Rigpa UK has been published, and it makes for uncomfortable reading. This is the highest-level investigation into the management of Rigpa and the actions of Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar so far completed. The Charity Commission sits within the UK’s Department of Justice and although their remit and powers relate only to the proper management of charities, their reports can be used by the police as part of criminal investigations. This is the summary of their findings:
The FPMT are managing this much better than Rigpa in that they admit what he has done and apologise. In the update of Nov 20th, they say, ‘We accept that, according to the standard applied by FaithTrust Institute, Dagri Rinpoche committed sexual misconduct, which also qualifies as spiritual abuse given his position as a spiritual teacher’, and at the end they say they ‘apologise again to the victims for the suffering experienced’. Rigpa couldn’t even manage that much.
In October, 2019 the FPMT Board hired FaithTrust Institute (FTI) to conduct an independent fact-finding assessment of allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Dagri Rinpoche. A confidential mailbox was set up so anyone who experienced or witnessed harm by Dagri Rinpoche could make a report.