It’s okay to leave
Many lamas have said that if you discover, even after making a commitment to them, that a lama is not who you thought they were, or if they are not good for you, or if the relationship has broken down for whatever reason, then one can walk away from one’s vajra master without an issue with samaya, so long as one retains respect for the good one gained from the relationship.
And HH Dalai Lama said in Dharamsala 1993, “If you have already taken tantric initiations from them [a guru], you should not develop disrespect or antipathy. In such cases, the Kalachakra Tantra advises us to maintain a neutral attitude and not pursue the relationship any further.”
Chokyi Ngyima Rinpoche told a friend of mine, “If you can no longer see your tantric guru as a Buddha, then you should leave quietly.”
The usual advice is to leave quietly, but both His Holiness Dalai lama and Mingyur Rinpoche have said that when serious abuse has occured if a teacher does not respond to private requests for the behaviour to stop – as is the case with Sogyal – then it is necessary to make the abuses public in order to protect others and the purity of the dharma.
Motivation is the key: speaking out of hatred or desire for revenge is wrong. However, if we know that by not speaking out, their negative behavior will continue and will harm the Buddhadharma, and we still remain silent, that is wrong.” HH Dalai Lama. Dharamsala 1993.
That’s why people have spoken out publically or have spoken to Karen Baxter as part of the independent investigation into the allegations raised in the Letter to Sogyal Lakar 14-07-2017
A master of serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse
The results of the independant investigation confirmed that the behaviours outlined in that letter are true:
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;
Karen Baxter in the Lewis Silkin report details widespread evidence that members of Sogyal’s inner circle – who catered to his every need, including providing massages as he fell asleep – were subjected to repeated acts of brutal violence. The lama’s wooden backscratcher was a favoured method for beating people, as was punching them in the stomach. Baxter says she has been provided with evidence of one individual being knocked unconscious, others being left bleeding and concussed.
If you are a student of Sogyal Rinpoche and haven’t read the full report, you need to. Until you do, you have not fully investigated your teacher.
And you need to try to understand the depth of the harm that Sogyal caused, that the harm was not only in the event that caused the trauma, but also in the resulting Post Traumatic Stress that plagues survivors for decades (if not their whole life) afterwards.
Rigpa communications pay lip service to compassion, but their actions show no real compassion towards survivors of Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse and no understanding of the long-term results of the trauma they experienced. Research Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the dynamics and results of domestic abuse, and you might start to understand the depth of the harm, and begin to see just how sick the Rigpa culture is in the inner circle. The trauma is similar to that experienced by children with an abusive family. And what you read in the report is only the tip of the iceburg.
Now that you know the truth, can you still take him as your teacher?
So, with that in mind, how can anyone possibly still take Sogyal as their teacher now? I think we can try to rationalize staying faithful with all sorts of philosophy, but it’s likely to be be the same philosophy that allowed it all to happen in the first place – the Rigpa-speak party line of crazy wisdom, pure perception and devotion all slightly skewed to enable the abuse. That’s what we were fed, after all, and it’s what we’ll still believe unless we’ve examined those beliefs in light of what happened and seen how they were used to manipulate, control and silence us.
You may have had only good interactions with him yourself, but does that make up for the serious harm he caused others? No it does not, just as in the Jimmy Saville case. No one would say that the good that he did makes up for the harm he caused.
Over the last year I have heard many more stories such as those in the report. This didn’t happen to only a few people, and a lot of people are too scared to speak out. Some are too scared to even consider that they were abused in the name of training. The long-term results of that denial is not good for their mental health. If you’re having flashbacks to your ‘training’, particularly ones associated with a feeling of fear or anxiety in your body, then you have been traumatised, and your mental gymnastics to tell yourself that it was love, not abuse, is the result of the brainwashing you were subjected to that made you ‘take’ it and see people ‘taking it’ without complaint. Listen to your body, not your mind on this, and if you are unsure if what you experienced was abuse or love, then don’t talk to someone in Rigpa (because they’ll pretend to be open but their agenda is likely to be to try to convince you it was love), find a councilor from outside and have a chat.
Fear is not a good motivation for remaining with a teacher – fear of hell, of being shuned or shamed, of losing one’s practice and so on – but you can leave without breaking samaya. You just say thank you for the good you brought me, but my trust in you is now broken, so I must move on. And there are other lamas who you can go to so your practice need not suffer if you’re afraid of it falling apart. Just substitute one lama for the other. After all, the focus of our practice was supposed to be Guru Rinpoche, the embodiment of the love and compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
I handle this situation by thinking – he was my teacher and I gained much from my relationship with him. I’ll always be grateful for that, but now he is no longer my teacher. I could not possibly take him as my teacher now that I know what I know. He is, as HHDL says, “Disgraced.”
Were the teachings as pure as we thought?
Now I believe that his teachings on devotion and pure perception, though not incorrect, were subtly distorted in order to set himself up at the centre of our spiritual life, to make us dependent on him, and to make his inner circle his virtual slaves, just as in any personality cult. I doubt this was intentional; it is, however, what happened.
It’s hard to accept that you were, or are, in a cult, but after studying what characterises a cult, and seeing how Rigpa management persists in using cult tactics for manipulation of student’s perceptions, I can come to no other conclusion. Once I accepted that, I found the literature on recovering from a cult very helpful. Here on the blog, we looked at some of the key beliefs we were taught and saw how they had been used to manipulate and control us, and to give Sogyal permission to behave as he liked. Once you see that, there is no going back.
The yes-or-no question
But whether or not you want to use the cult word, and whether or not you want to stay and try to help Rigpa reform, you still have to ask yourself: Is this a man I can follow as my spiritual teacher now? And the answer to that for this moment in time has to be yes or no.
For so long as you avoid asking yourself that question, and for so long as you avoid making a decision, you will be in a state of confusion, and your spiritual life will suffer. So I encourage you to decide. Can you still take Sogyal as your teacher now that you know what he is really like?
People from any Vajrayana sangha can join the Survivors of Vajrayana Abuse and Allies Facebook group for support. Click the link to request to join.
Anyone who has left a Buddhist sangha that had an abusive teacher can join the Beyond the Temple Facebook Group. The focus in this group is not on the abuse, but on ourselves and our spiritual life as we recover from our experience and look to the future. Click here and request to join.
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.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page, which posts links to related articles as they come to hand.
119 Replies to “Can You Still Take Sogyal as Your teacher?”
Excellent piece, Moonfire! Thank you! You have written with a great deal of clarity and wisdom.
You have also helped me move a little closer to making a decision about my own teacher.
A succinct yet thorough piece, describing the whole situation exactly as it is – and backed by irrefutable evidence. Any remaining student at Rigpa, suffering with indecisive wavering, would find this piece immensely helpful when making the right decision. If Rigpa truly cared for them, they would publish it….. the gauntlet has been thrown down!
I’m amazed that the most important reason not to see Sogyal Lakar as a spiritual teacher is overlooked here: he always was a charlatan, and he always will be.
There is no “samaya” with him, because Sogyal is a con man. Rigpa students have been duped. Not just in recent years, but continuously from 1974 onwards.
Maybe this is the hardest lesson to learn: all the abuses have been good for nothing at all. There’s no benefit whatsoever in pretending that Sogyal Lakar ever was bona fide Vajra Master.
I totally agree. And in addition to that, Sogyal wasn’t even the incarnation of the great Dzogchen master, Lerab Lingpa. All reputable and influential Tibetans, including HHDL, acknowledge that Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche was the true incarnation, while never even mentioning Sogyal.
It was one big scam from the beginning that began when Sogyal’s mother made that audacious claim. Then when Sogyal founded Rigpa, Rigpa propagated it as if marketing a commodity, conning thousands of people into thinking that he must be an incarnation of a great master.
Agreed Sogyal was a total charlatan with a very ambitious mother. Not out of the norm for women to declare they had special dreams or that their son did this/that -sometimes total lies- women often wanted their sons to be recognized as it means power and money and the family’s own secure future.
The lay Tibetans didn’t take him seriously- how could they with that silly robe?
I propose someone write a satire called Tibetan Book of Rising and Falling. Feel free to use that title. Imagine that.. offering something for FREE… Rigpa would undoubtedly charge for the rights.
Absolutely love that title! Too funny and yet sadly apt….
Perhaps anyone who feels they have a story to contribute could do so as a chapter of the book.
It could be a best seller 🙂 Perhaps the royalties would serve to reimburse us for hefty losses to our bank balances for all those retreats!?
Indeed it would be a bestseller. Should be required reading for all young tulkus.
Regarding #MeTooGuru petition: “The number of contributors is still growing, but these testimonies concern (sexual) abuses by at least five Tibetan Buddhist teachers, experienced by at least twelve survivors in ten Western countries.”
-can the 5+ teachers be named please? Sogyal is obviously one but the others?
Well, I’ve named and shamed… come on girls, step up!
@ Rob Hogendoorn
I agree, it’s often not emphasized in these discussions, perhaps that’s because the reaction to all this can be so traumatic for many people, after all it’s basically a series of unpleasant shocks. So there may be a natural resistance, a psychological mechanism for self-protection.
Understanding might only progress slowly in stages: the understanding of what he did, all the abuse, violence and madness, to the understanding of what that makes him and then by inference, understanding what he never was and so logically, what never happened.
It can make us uncomfortable to reach the conclusion that whatever experiences we had were internal and entirely subjective, natural neuro-chemical reactions in the brain, based on high expectation, very intense emotional need and triggered by context and his psychological techniques of manipulation.
It’s not easy to let go of something that seemed so meaningful at the time and accept that all those years of effort and goodwill were wasted.
It looks like some people can see the entire picture quickly, others by degrees and perhaps some won’t ever see it at all……or maybe they can’t even bring themselves to look.
Sogyal being a complete fraud may be hard to accept, but I think it may not be the hardest lesson of all:
For me, the final and most difficult process is understanding what that implies about not only the wider nature and structure of Tibetan Buddhism, but also human nature itself….especially my own.
I know quite a few sangha members, who are since many years in Rigpa and still are, and they have become much better persons and much more kind and helpful for others than they used to be years ago. I know that because I know them from before.
They were of great help, when a dear friend of mine died, and they were there for her in a wonderful sensitive, skillful and loving way, even though they were in conflict with my friend before, and even though my friend had separated from Rigpa before. They asked my friend for forgivness and there was no Rigpa indoctrination, just presence, respect, openness and loving kindness.
So that is the other side. And in the report is also stated that many Rigpa members, who were not in the “inner circle” have been benefitted by S.R.
I think one has to see both sides, even though that is not as easy as judging black or white.
I don’t doubt that members may have experienced benefits within Rigpa, Lola, but they may well have been taught to attribute such benefit to the wrong causes and/or the wrong person(s).
Donald Trump, for example, attributes success to himself and failure to his voters: he may well be wrong in each case. Rigpa members’ attributions may be wrong too.
Besides, it seems very plausible indeed that they would have benefitted much more without Sogyal Lakar and the abuses.
I don’t know, if one can always pick a lama like a pair of shoes in the supermarket. For me it was not like that. What’s the point of having the best lama in the world, but the teachings don’t make their way past your brain-stem. It was more like a karmic connection that had to happen, and I felt that I was guided in and out of Rigpa several times – seemingly dependent on what I had to learn at a given moment. I felt clearly that I should be there for the time I was there, inspite of all the things I disagreed with. And I think I was not the only one, who felt that way.
S.R. himself once said in a teaching: “It’s your bad karma, that you are stuck with me – otherwise you would have Dilgo Khentse…”
There is more between heaven and earth than what we are aware of.
Now I have other teachers since a few years, and it feels right for me now. The main teacher is the “inner teacher” anyway and life itself.
My attitude towards S.R. is the same as the writer of the above article. I am grateful for the things I learned and for the effort S.R. and others put into teaching us and pushing us into practice…
And I am also grateful to the 8 curagous writers of the letters, Moonfire and many others in this blog for opening my eyes to the truth about what happened in the “inner circle”. They are teachers for me as well.
very much agree with you Lola, the balanced overall outlook. Myself still devotedly practising Meditation, Ngondro and Vajrayana on a daily basis regardless obstacles inside/outside (people bluntly trying to stop me practicing, partly by trying to project/dump their own shit on me, sending psychiatry figures my way etc.)… studying Dharma like Longchenpa’s “Basic Space of Phenomena”… (Cho Ying Dzo a must-read ! https://www.namsebangdzo.com/Precious-Treasury-of-the-Basic-Space-p/10552.htm 🙂
A reading of a similar work of Longchenpa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA-YU2cW5_g
anyway, without a physical teacher for two years now. It’s hard to be thrown back on yourself after 13 years of intensive Sangha activities (monthly gatherings, stoks, personal and group retreats)… (re)gaining strength of Spirit when/after feeling at a loss. The Good Heart keeps me going, the bigger View… all sentient beings… suffering in samsaras mire of negativity, obscuration and confusion (about mind’s Nature)… Bodhichitta
have benefitted very much… all the visiting guest lamas… teachings, empowerments, karmic links established for lifetimes to come… people like Rob Hoogendoorn are doing good work but are really missing out on the significance of this… pathways to Enlightenment having been openened for many, many sincerely devoted students of Dharma (Truth)
Sogyal Rinpoche said that his job was to connect us to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Job well done we can say, no ???
but yes, I had to leave after becoming more & more conscious what Rigpa had become… a personalia cult… which very much has to do with shadow and darkness… his and our own… to be looked through… with loving care and tenderness, sometimes with firmness and wrath… to cut through, to transform… especially the lower chakra areas… instead of grounding in his perverted mandala finding ground and solace in our own, instead of relying on other’s creativity manifesting our own… instead of giving away our power to some-one else gathering & enriching the world with Soul Spirit Strength Qualities that are ours… setting a good example for other’s to follow/mirror themselves in without the selfish need to overpower them in any unkind of way
Peace, Love and Joy/Bliss, Stefan (Rangsal Dechen)
Your words are quite similar to my own experience. Thanks for posting.
thanks Rick. The path to lasting freedom from despair, sorrow and distress (suffering) goes a long way, but can be made very very short. Keeping to strict but loving Discipline, Bodhichitta, The View regardless.
Correct link to the Longchenpa “Spaciousness” reading must be (if interested): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2xOKafRISY&list=PLH8IHFxtdauJ1rIjIi21XsrkmWmjE7Zcz
I doubt your credentials as journalist and researcher.
Where were you trained as a journalist? And which is the istitute you work for as a reseacher?
Here’s the verbatim transcript of the exchange between reporter Nicole le Fever (NOS) and the Dalai Lama during the Meet & Greet in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam today (15 September 2018).
“Nicole le Fever: “Your Holiness, yesterday you had a meeting with four victims of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers. What did you learn from them?”
Dalai Lama: “I already know these things, nothing new. But, particularly in Dharamsala… during the Western Teachers Conference in 1993, I think more than ten years… twentyfive years… the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference at Dharamsala. So, someone mentioned, I think most probably Sogyal Rinpoche, with these, how to say, about problems, sexual problems.
Thubten Jinpa: “Allegations were made at that conference.”
Dalai Lama: “So, I told self-discipline as far as Buddhists and also some other people… the original teacher, in our case the Buddha, made very clear that self-discipline and sexual misconduct, I think even lay people…”
Thubten Jinpa: “This ethics related to sexual behaviour does not apply just for the monastics alone. Buddha himself spoke about the lay practitioners’ sexual ethics as well.”
Dalai Lama: “So, these people, they don’t care about Buddha’s teaching. So, now the only thing is: make public, these things. Then people may be concerned about their shame, their embarassment. So, I told, so yesterday also I mentioned, since many years ago I already mentioned that: ‘Now you make things clear, so very good, I don’t care.’ Then also, you see, I mentioned, in the Winter, in November, all the important religious leaders of Tibetan traditions gather in Dharamsala. So at that time, you see, they should appeal, I suggested. So, I think the religious leaders, I think, should pay more attention, like that.”
This verbatim transcript is based on the audio recording of the Meet & Greet that I made myself. An edited version of that same exchange can be viewed here: https://nos.nl/artikel/2250536-dalai-lama-over-misbruik-ik-weet-het-al-sinds-de-jaren-90.html
It’s been very apparent all along that during the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference in 1993, Sogyal Lakar was very much on all the participants’ minds. But, as far as I know, this is the first time the Dalai Lama corroborated that by that time he had already been warned about the allegations of sexual and physical abuse by Sogyal: http://meridian-trust.org/?s=Western+Buddhist+Teachers+Conference+1993&post_type=video
Karen Baxter, in her recent report, stated that the Dalai Lama received a ten page letter in 1992—the very year he wrote the foreword to ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’—detailing the abuses that he was abuses of at that time: https://www.rigpa.org/independent-investigation-report/
In 1994, a victim called Janice Doe filed a complaint for damages that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jul/01/lama-sex-abuse-sogyal-rinpoche-buddhist
I agree with you that the best teacher is the “inner teacher” and life itself.
Please don’t think I’m being rude, but I’m not sure exactly what else you’re saying or exactly why. ( Sorry if my questions seem conflictual, it’s not my intention at all.)
What you’re describing seems like perfectly normal human behaviour to me: everyone is capable of kindness and most people mellow with age and experience anyway, plus people who are drawn to Buddhism tend to be interested in improving themselves, surely none of that’s unusual.
This ‘benefit’ you mention, is it really causal or could it be just your association? Are you attributing quite normal behaviour to the influence of Sogyal, his teachings or some sort of mystical blessing?
That might be mildly reassuring to some people but would it make the slightest difference at all to his victims?
Because even supposing this ‘benefit’ whatever it might be, actually exists and is due to him, then are you saying that it somehow balances out or lessens the harm, the decades of violent abuse, the enormous amount of psychological damage, the trauma of physical and emotional humiliation that his victims may carry for the rest of their lives, the wasted years, the wasted energy, the wasted money, and all the other endless damaging repercussions of his behaviour?
You see, if I’ve misunderstood and that’s not what you’re saying, then I don’t understand why you mention ‘benefit’ at all.
I don’t think it’s surprising for people to be kind to one another even under the difficult circumstances you describe but I do find it surprising when supposedly decent people can remain in Rigpa or still have any respect for Sogyal and I find talk of ‘benefit’ puzzling.
If these people have really benefitted, then where is the sense of morality or even common decency that they should have gained from his teachings? Why aren’t they appalled? Why haven’t they left?
His abuse became public knowledge a long time ago, but the sad fact is that despite that thousands of people stayed his students, thousands more joined and thousands still remain.
For me that really doesn’t prove anything good about him at all, but it does say a lot about their indifference, self-interest or credulity and his talent for manipulation and deception.
Yes, most things in life aren’t black and white, but decades of deliberate deceit, prolific sexual abuse, exploitation and violence are just black, so in this case I don’t think anyone has any obligation to “see both sides”.
Thank you for your comment and also for the respectful and non-confrontial way you have put it. I appreciate that.
1.) As I wrote already in my last comment I share the attitude of the writer of the above article, and I have nothing to add to that. And only because someone opposed that and wrote that there have been not benefit whatsoever in Rigpa, I wrote my experiences.
2.) For me it is not so important, what others do than what I do.
To give an exemple:
If you are a vegan, you do this, because you understood the immense suffering of countless helpless animal in the factory farms as well as the gigantic negative group-karma created by this, and you don’t want to be a part of this by supporting this with you money. So far, so good.
But then there was a discussion in parts of the vegan community, whether or not it is appropriate to buy a vegan product from a company who also produces diary or meet. And that goes to far for me. It’s not question for me, where I buy my vegan products. Otherwise I could not buy any food in my natural food store, because they also sell meat. That would be taking it to an extreme in my opinion. Rather I am appreciative for the vegan product. One cannot be free of harming living in the society we are living in.
For me Rigpa was a bit like that company with the meat and vegan production. Beside that right now I am less worried about S.R. He is ill, and to my estimation he will never again play the role he had before. I don’t know of cause, but this is my guess. For me the question would be rather the role of D.K. and O.T. in the Vision Board. Because as Rose wrote, if they offer women to other lamas the shouldn’t be in the Vision Board.
3.) For me the most important function of this blog is to educate and sensitize people to become more aware of the danger and mechanism of cults, manipulation and abuse and therefore being more cautious of giving their power away or accepting beliefs without examination. In this I agree with Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, who also said, that the only way to solve the problem is by giving information and education. What people then do with it and if they look for the information or not, is their choice.
Like Dr. Joe Dispenza often says: “In the age of information ignorance becomes a choice.”
Thanks, that’s a very thoughtful and interesting response. I agree it’s very complicated.
I appreciate your position and your example of vegan ethics is a good way of explaining it.
I’ll try to explain my position with a similar example:
For me remaining a part of Rigpa would be like being a vegan and continuing to buy food from a company when I knew full well that the managing director and senior staff were pretending the business was vegan, totally organic and committed to being ethically and ecologically sound while actually running a slaughterhouse, raising animals for their fur, stealing money from customer accounts and causing frequent outbreaks of illness by poor hygene and pollution.
I could say; “Well, it’s difficult to always be ethically correct and I really like their tofu burgers.”
Surely, staying in Rigpa is a conscious, voluntary and entirely avoidable decision that involves ignoring or minimizing great harm to many people, it doesn’t seem much like deciding which shop you use to me.
But yes, strictly speaking it would be impossible for anyone or anything, no matter how destructive, not to bring some benefit to someone at some point and history is full of examples of people who did well from wars, criminality and corruption of all kinds, or simply weren’t affected negatively at all.
It’s just that the severity of the damage overwhelms and makes the benefit irrelevant and referring to it at all seems redundant.
So that’s my question: why mention it ? ( that’s not a rhetorical point, I’d really like to understand why. )
from my own (last) experience as a voluntary worker at Lerab Ling this rings home… the vegan/meet example etc. It was a Drupchen (http://rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Drupchen) and I was asked to help out at the lama kitchen instead of my regular job at the washing kitchen.
What I saw there astounded, somewhat shocked me quite… several times many big chunks of meat being delivered by a nearby slaughterhouse employee. Why meat as Buddhist ahimsa practitioners ? And why so much of it ? Can’t we do without… meat and alcohol and coffee… like Buddha Shakyamuni himself prescribed ? Where did we go wrong (as Nyingma practitioners) ? Or does it involve a logical sequence involving Bon religion with blood sacrifice of animals ? Followed by eating them in a consumeritive way, partly due to climate conditions (yak-meat, most Tibetans love meat-momos) ? Changing the tibetan high altitude plains and mountains for western hemisphere climate and (cultural) conditions giving extra (lower vibration) challenges together with feudal (woman, feminine enerygy unfriendly even hostile) system roots…
Better we more had moved our bodies within Rigpa (bodily yoga exercises for example, outside walking meditation like at Plum Village, ) than consuming above listed… supporting healthiness instead of laziness
Please everyone respect each other’s experience and accept that what they say they experienced is true for them; though their experience may not be true or understandable or shared by you, it is true for them. It may be very hard, given what we know now, for some of you to accept that many people did receive benefit from Sogyal as their teacher, but the truth is that many did, and even some of those directly abused still acknowledge the benefit they received despite (not because of) the abuse they suffered. Karen Baxter in the report said that “Whilst I have seen evidence that many people feel that they have benefitted greatly from having Sogyal Lakar as their teacher, individual experiences are very different.”
The words of the dharma brings benefit, and Sogyal introduced many of us to the dharma. Despite his lack of qualifications, he did do that much. And he also didn’t emotionally, sexually or physically abuse most of us, (though he did spiritually abuse all us). Saying that you appreciate the benefit you received does not, in any way, mean that you condone the abuse, or that you think the benefit somehow cancels out the harm, or that you don’t also feel abused by his actions. So please don’t read such things into people’s comments where that is not what they’re saying. Acknowledging the benefit you received simply means that you are being honest and balanced in your memory of your time in Rigpa. It does not mean that you are still his student, either.
Sogyal is not all good or all bad. His behaviour is just plain disgusting and upper management acted wrongly in enabling and covering up, but the teachings and the community had value for us, and presumably still has some value for those who remain in Rigpa. We wouldn’t have stayed so long if it hadn’t. (Being part of a community is likely the reason that many are still attending their centre). We can accept the good while rejecting the bad. Rejecting the negative in situation does not need to make us blind to the benefit.
It’s entirely understandable that if what you experienced was so traumatic that you need to reject everything to do with Sogyal and Rigpa, or if you are so appalled and disgusted by what you read in the report that you cannot see how this man could possibly ever had brought any benefit, but please do, for the sake of keeping this a place where people feel they can comment without feeling attacked, accept that those who say they experienced benefit, actually did. To deny people’s experience is like saying, “I didn’t experience abuse (or benefit), therefore abuse (or benefit) didn’t happen.”
To those of you who are saying SL was always a charlatan, I wonder what your motivation is? Do you understand that you are denying the lived experience of hundreds of thousands of people?
It’s my opinion that polarizing comments actually stand in the way of people accepting the truth of sl’s harmful behavior.
When you tell people that what they felt and heard that was beneficial to them was all a scam then they might quite rightfully say you are wrong, that you have no right to tell them that what they experienced was not real.
@Rob you seem to be single minded in your critique of SL. I wonder did you ever meet him? What do you base your vitriol on? If it’s observing from the outside then you can’t speak to the lived experience of others. Of course, outside observation is important, but it will never be able to compare to the experience of those of us who participated, who gave our whole hearts to the community and the practice. It’s like a food critic who judges a dish by the appearance only without tasting it or being able to measure the nutritional content. It’s one perspective, one small part of the full picture, as Buddhists we are compelled to view everything from many perspectives
For some reason SL and company were able to create something that benefitted many people. Were they applying the teachings to themselves? No, for the most part, having been inside for many years I don’t think that they did, or if they did it was a warped interpretation.
Did SL inspire me to live by the teachings and gain deep insight, yes!
Holding two seemingly conflicting truths takes a willingness to be open to the truth as it is, not how we want it to be.
If you really care about others, and want to help, please know that for me the constant stream of insults and denial of people’s lived experience is not helpful at all. I would suggest that you try listening, you might learn something.
Lola, I have deep respect for your ability to acknowledge the good that you saw and experienced and your ability to see when it was no longer helpful to you on your path.
Did SL need to be stopped? Yes. Does his legacy now need to be destroyed, must you scorch the earth, obliterate all the benefit? That feels very old testament to me and from where I sit feels like you aren’t simply interested in truth but are seeking revenge.
The inability to have a reasonable discussion about this, the apparent need to always be 100% right, shuts down the conversation, and polarizes people. It’s hard lesson that I’ve learned from my own personal experience. Tread lightly, approach all things with an open inquisitive mind, be careful to not trample all over people’s understanding lest you become one of the monsters that you deride.
You’ve raised a lot of important points, some concern me directly, some don’t, which is normal, but the ones that concern me are the ones that I think are potentially quite problematic, so I’ll try to explain what I mean as best I can.
I know Sogyal was always a charlatan, because if he had ever been anything else, including even a decent human being, let alone someone capable of transmitting profound wisdom and compassion, then he would simply have been incapable of the decades of monstrous behaviour he’s become infamous for.
Not to accept and admit such an obvious point is willful blindness to basic psychology, it’s convenient religious obscurantism and the type of argument currently being used by many people in Rigpa who were complicit or enablers, to defend his memory and themselves.
My motivation for saying that is very simple: to try and prevent it happening again by informing potential victims and helping current ones. The sensibilities of non-victims are very secondary to that.
I knew him well, almost right from the start, and he was basically always a nasty, self-absorbed bully ……except that many of us thought it was ‘crazy wisdom.’ He just got worse with fame and power and then some of us saw through the bullshit excuses and left.
So yes, I’m definitely denying the ‘lived experience’ of hundreds of thousands of people, it was just a dangerous delusion that perpetuated suffering. That a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true and history has proved that over and over again doesn’t it?
Why you think that having a clear understanding of that and expressing it stands in the way of people accepting the truth of his brutality is a mystery to me, it makes no sense at all. The opposite is true.
You seem happy to forget that our entire society is based on the right to tell people when you think they’re wrong and your suggesting that right shouldn’t or doesn’t exist is a rapid path to totalitarianism. It might work for some lamas and their disciples but look where it’s led us.
” Holding two seemingly conflicting truths” as you put it is just what in the real world is called being illogical, inconsistent. It isn’t being open it’s being confused and ambivalent because it suits you. An example is the belief that Sogyal was a great teacher and a serial abuser at the same time……even if that works well for you, it’s still not true.
His ‘legacy’ is actually an enormous amount of terrible damage, both to individuals and to Buddhism itself, compared to the scale and severity of this, the fact that some people weren’t victims and feel that they benefited is irrelevant……do I really have to mention Jimmy Saville again?
Saying people aren’t capable of having a reasonable discussion and are trying to be totally right and shut down the discussion, sounds fine until you read the threads…..it’s not actually happening here at all. Saying it is is just trying to do exactly what you’re accusing others of. You might not like their opinions but being patronizing, superior and censorious really isn’t much use.
Aren’t you actually just trying to discourage people from expressing themselves because their understanding makes you uncomfortable of even angry? Why is that and how exactly is that “treading lightly”?
I certainly have a great deal of derision for Sogyal, and deep revulsion for everything he stood for, is that ‘trampling’ anything that doesn’t deserve to be trampled?
Please explain how you think that will turn me and everyone else who shares my perfectly normal response, into a monster.
The reason I used the word’ problematic’ to describe some aspects of your post is that frankly they come across as equivocal and apologist when it comes to Sogyal.
At what point does that apologism shade into partial rehabilitation and subtle denial of the full extent of all the harm he caused, under the guise of being non-polarizing and why do you think it’s unacceptable to be polarized about the horror of all this?
Surely by now it’s become clear that all those so-called ‘positive’ experiences came solely at the expense of all the other people who were abused, beaten, traumatized, humiliated, and tormented by a sick man with serious mental health problems who was prepared to use brutality for his own gratification.
Those experiences may not have been at any cost at all to those who had what another commentator memorably called: “A safe seat in the crowd” but to Sogyal’s victims the cost was considerable indeed.
Some moral clarity and an acknowledgement of that would be a little more appropriate here.
Lauren, I think @thewindhorse (below) says it well. The Dharma that happened at Rigpa was bigger than Sogyal. Yes, I agree that the apologists and cover-ups have been despicable, but it’s never as simple as you want to make it. Many students never saw his abuses close-up. Many students who did were under a cultic control which allowed them to by-pass the abuses in various ways– but I don’t think you can say that this negates all of their experience. Once again, the main point is that you can never judge accurately the totality of another person’s spiritual reality. It’s not possible because of the vast complexity of each person. Such black and white thinking as you have just exposed is the basis of cults and fundamentalism.
Firstly I have to thank you for expressing yourself in such a thoughtful and restrained way, because I realise you find my stance extreme, ( my thinking is apparently exposed as “fundamentalist” and “the basis of cults”.)
That’s an interesting choice of words.
I appreciate your reminding me that many students didn’t witness abuse directly, (although it became more of a public display towards the latter stages) but whether that absolves them of the responsibility of doing a minimum of background research that would have made them better informed is another matter, after all, information about Sogyal’s abuse was firmly in the public domain and increasingly discussed and disseminated from the mid-nineties onwards .
And yes, there’s certainly the issue of mind-control, which complicates everything. For me that’s pivotal to my argument and I’m glad you mention it because, (despite how it might seem) I’m really trying to understand why most people here are of the same opinion as you when it comes to the validity of experiences and the benefits that they attach to them…….and I’m definitely in the minority.
My question is this: if someone is as you say, under the influence of cultic control, doesn’t that automatically mean that their experiences were also a part of that so how could those experiences be anything other than delusion too?
To put it another way: I’d say that is precisely what negates their experiences.
You see, I’m not doubting the temporary subjective reality of experiences, but I am pointing out that a post hoc assessment of their significance and lasting long-term value must take into account the context.
Quite a few people seem to be ignoring that context completely or brushing the significance aside, effectively saying: “Oh, it doesn’t make any difference that I was in a cult environment and being psychologically manipulated and hypnotized by an abusive sociopath, my experience was real, authentic and of lasting value.”
How on earth is that possible? the man was mentally deranged by any standards.
It’s somewhat similar to someone who has taken a powerful hallucinogen, if I say that due to the cognitive distortion induced by the drug their intellectual judgment and rational clarity of mind is impaired, could that be dismissed as ‘black and white thinking’…….or is it just a simple logical conclusion? They might sincerely believe they have the advanced driving skills of a racing driver, but would you let them give you a lift? If afterwards they told you they saw all the Buddha realms in the fridge, would you actually bother checking to see if they were still there?
It’s become a familiar assumption and a criticism here that this so-called ‘black and white thinking’ is essentially bad, fundamentalist and cultic, but this neglects the overwhelming importance of the binary function of the brain, and so much else besides, because without a yes/no, on/off, true/false system we couldn’t exist.
Because something is binary it doesn’t mean it can’t also be extremely complex, sophisticated and capable of subtle nuance…..I’m typing this on just such a system and I wouldn’t say it was cultic at all.
Our entire society depends and functions on the basis of this: Medicine, Technology, food production, the Law and so on, but when it comes to Buddhism and religion in general, some people are fond of claiming personal selective exemption on the grounds of ‘non-duality’.
If anything, the real characteristic of cults and religions isn’t particularly binary it’s more their irrationality, the extraordinary way that they reject factual evidence, logic and consistency in favour of a kind of superimposed false logic based on faith, belief and of course subjective religious experience and the authority they insist proceeds from that experience.
So I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to differ because I’m ( fundamentally) not convinced by that at all.
“It’s somewhat similar to someone who has taken a powerful hallucinogen”
This is an excellent analogy to Vajrayana Buddhism. It points to the kind of impacts and life changing experiences that people have had spending time with Sogyal Rinpoche and other teachers.
Michael Pollan provides a comprehensive look at the changes people experience and the healing that can take place on hallucinogens.
”Holding two seemingly conflicting truths” is quite easy in this situation. Someone shows you a door to resetting your brain and your life, then later turns out to be “whatever kind of bad person.” The two situations don’t cancel one another out for the person that had those experiences.
“All of which suggests that the Buddhist ideal of ego suppression is grounded in neurochemical reality, for the brains of experienced meditators and people undergoing a psychedelic trip display striking commonalities. The more connected we feel to what’s around us, and the less we obsess about ourselves, the happier we are likely to be.” M.P.
The MP quote was misappropriated, it was part of the article written by By Tom Bissell.
I’ve just made a reply to Lauren and jtsandlee, but it isn’t showing up. Would you mind just checking for me? Please feel free to delete this post.
Seems another post was blocked. Thanks for looking into it.
Seems another post was blocked or isn’t showing up.
Thanks for looking into it.
“Saying people aren’t capable of having a reasonable discussion and are trying to be totally right and shut down the discussion, sounds fine until you read the threads…..it’s not actually happening here at all.”
My experience and the experience of some others who have left this blog is one of being shut down. The pressure from those running the blog and those following the party line here is strong, but may not be apparent to those who agree with that line. To them, it will seem obvious they are in the right, they get to decide what is appropriate.
The results of the research with lead author Jessica Covert, a graduate student in UB’s Department of Communication, appear in the journal Social Science Computer Review.
“These findings are not only significant because we are talking about individuals’ emotions here, but it also raises questions about how exposure to these interactions affect one’s day-to-day functioning,” says Covert. “Offline research suggests that social exclusion evokes various physical and psychological consequences such as reduced complex cognitive thought.
This had fallen into the spam folder. I guess the automated system didn’t like the link for some reason.
I had to laugh at your suggestion that those running the blog are following Rigpa party line. HA HA. We are so far from that! If anyone feels shut down, it was because they were making comments that people contacted me and complained about, and that is usually because they were attacking others or consistently pushing their own agenda in some bullying manner.
To the other person who was complaining that I didn’t step in and delete Sangye’s comment in which he called someone stupid, it is now gone, because someone emailed me about it. Leaving a comment in the comment thread does not get the message to me. I only moderate when someone contacts me via the contact form with a complaint, and I only check the comments then or every couple of weeks when I post a new post. I simply don’t have time to keep a hawk eye on this space, and there is only one moderator left here – me. After spending 6 months of last year full time supporting people suffering from abuse or the fall-out of abuse, I now have to focus on earning some money, so cut me some slack here!
Thanks for posting. When I said “party line” I didn’t mean Rigpa Organization party line, nor was my comment directed at you, I was responding to Lauren’s declaration that no such pressure exists here, which was in response to jtstandlee.
Groups almost always develop party lines and it would take intentional effort and lots of energy to avoid this. One of my favorite teachers was Toni Packer who questioned so much, but still, the groups that came up around her also fell into belief systems and patterns.
This is why we need to try and be radically, radically open to what others have to say. Each of us falls into patterns about what we think is right, what we think is moral, how we think things are. These patterns are extremely difficult to come out of, we are all caught and we need one another to extricate ourselves.
These patterns (whatever the content is) are at the root of the formation of systems that tolerate abuse. They are a movement, the content is like the bright lights that stops us from seeing the movement itself.
I remember atending the Buddhism & Psychotherapy retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche and Lobsang Rapgay. This was in the late 80s. He was talking about having to face these issues in himself as part of his PHD program, but it was very difficult and eye opening for him. His words went pretty much unheard as it seemed outside the scope of the students and teachers take on “how things are”. To take up the kind of self-examination he was recommending might have stopped the abuse from occurring.
From the beginning in Rigpa, not Sogyal but renowned teachers like Trulshik Rinpoche and others have given the vast bulk of the vajrayana transmissions.
Therefor the vajrayana lineage that is practiced in Rigpa is valid and not tainted in any way by SR’s behaviour.
Since apparently SR will not return to teach at Rigpa events new people coming into Rigpa taking him as a teacher in the vajrayana sense seems not really plausible to me.
And, SR has colon cancer, had it operated, but against the suggestion of the doctors no chemotherapy because his general health was so bad. Under these circumstances his longer term life expectancy is questionable anyway even if he is apparently recovering right now.
But he is in his early 70ies anyway and I feel that Rigpa should now actively persue the succession question and find a lama or team of lamas of suitable lineage and qualification to take over even if old students who started with SR will still keep him as their reference teacher. SR as root guru will gradually be phased out.
Unfortunately among the younger generation there are not that many options who that may be, in Mingyur Rinpoche’s generation there is not an epidemy of lamas who have extensive retreat experience = the realisation to function as a lineage holder and even in the once wide spread lonchen nyingthik tradition younger realized masters are becoming sparse.
Thanks for such a considered response, I can see why my stance might seem disrespectful to other people’s experience, and why you point out that it’s possible for people to feel they’re being attacked when in fact their assertions are only being questioned.
I won’t continue with the issue of whether Sogyal really benefitted anyone before saying that I suspect there might be an unbridgeable divergence in view here, so I’ll do my best to explain why:
When someone comments, they’re usually asserting something, even if they say: “this was my experience” it’s informative but there’s also an assumption that their experience is valid, it’s informed their point of view and that’s presumably why they’re talking about it.
Now surely, when someone else expresses a contradictory point of view, also formed by their own experience, if the first commentator feels ‘attacked’ ( when simply ‘being disagreed with’ would be a less melodramatic description) then they’re free to defend their point of view by debate, elaborate their reasons and use logical argument.
Providing no one resorts to personal insults it’s not an attack in any real sense is it?
Is anyone really so sensitive that their opinion being challenged is such a threat? Or are they just uncertain of those opinions?
Are you saying that if something is true for someone then their truth shouldn’t be questioned ? After all, what was true for many people a few months ago isn’t true for them any longer precisely because their ‘truth’ was questioned openly without regard for their sensibilities or their opinions.
Would it have been better to indulge their cherished beliefs in their ‘experience’ and leave them to their opinion that Sogyal was a wise spiritual teacher?
If this blog is founded on the idea that people’s sensitivity to being disagreed with precludes frank and honest debate then don’t you think it will be rather limited to people who broadly agree with one another?
A bit like a forum for exchanging recipes or gardening tips, not wrong per se, but perhaps not quite adequate for this context.
Saying “you can’t say that because it doesn’t respect my experience” is missing the point, because it’s not necessarily your experience that’s being called into question but the conclusion that you’ve drawn from it.
I may respect people and their subjective experiences, but that doesn’t mean I’m under any obligation to accept their interpretation of those experiences as objective fact, nor are they under any obligation to accept mine…..we can debate; isn’t that how we learn and progress as individuals and as a society?
Isn’t constant debate exactly how most vital things function? science, medecine, technology, the law, politics, economy, it’s a long list, but admittedly religion is a long way down……if it’s there at all.
So I’m not actually denying anyone’s experience although I might question it’s meaning and value, but that’s not the same thing.
I seem to remember that believing in the sanctity of ‘experiences’ and the passive acceptance of assertions without argument or open debate is how we all got into this mess in the first place.
As to the question of benefit: Iike everyone, I did experience what I thought was benefit at the time, but was it real or long-lasting? No, it was a temporary distraction and masked the truth: that I was being exploited and my time, energy and money wasted supporting a mentally ill abuser. How can I in all conscience, call that benefit just because it was fun for me at the time?
Heroin addiction also brings pleasure and temporary relief from physical and mental pain…..does anyone say it has benefits?
What puzzles me is what exactly are these benefits people speak of and where are they now? Are we talking about a few nice memories of feeling blissed out while someone else was being abused?
And is a need for a community adequate reason for morally and financially supporting a group that has enabled serial abuse for decades? ( Belonging to the KKK might give a feeling of community too, but I’ve never heard that given as a reason.)
I can’t agree that you have to be abused to be disgusted by Sogyal’s abuse and reject absolutely everything to do with him and Rigpa, that’s just a normal moral reaction, an expression of repulsion at something horrible.
What doesn’t seem normal or explicable to me, is why, after all this, are people even talking about benefit: as was mentioned in the previous excellent article on Jimmy Saville, nobody talks about his charity work or all the money he raised for good causes.
And if they did, would they just be “Acknowledging the benefit received” or “being honest and balanced in their memory”?
Everyone understands Saville’s intention, his only motivation for all that ‘benefit’ was to conceal and facillitate a depraved life of abuse.
Why is Sogyal being talked about in any different terms? Is it from some sentimental attachment to these ‘experiences’ that this subtle ambivalence persists? Or do people think that this distinction is somehow necessary to defend Tibetan Buddhism itself in the wider sense.
Otherwise, I’d be very interested to hear what these ‘benefits’ actually consist of and what makes them still worth mentioning.
@Lauren, you say, “So I’m not actually denying anyone’s experience although I might question it’s meaning and value, but that’s not the same thing.”
I think when you question or denigrate the “meaning” and “value” of a person’s experience, then you are denigrating the experience. Right now, there are thousands of Buddhist students from many sanghas of disgraced teachers throughout the world who are asking themselves hard questions about the meaning and value of what they have received from their teachers. The answer for each of them is going to be different and complicated and is going to evolve over time– so these are not easy times and we cannot diminish years of spiritual experience to black and white, easy conclusions.
I think all Moonfire is asking for is to respect the diversity of experience and perspective that people are coming from. This is a hard topic to debate really.
I understand what you’re saying and yes, times aren’t easy for many people now.
Perhaps it’s just a small semantic difference but it seems we don’t see the process of questioning an assertion in quite the same way.
Since you put ‘question’ and ‘denigrate’ together it looks like you think they’re the same, and although they can be, I don’t think it’s fair to assume they inevitably are.
A question can be simply saying: “Ok, that’s you’re experience, and I understand your interpretation but I’m not entirely convinced, it doesn’t seem entirely clear to me, so would you mind explaining it further by setting out the facts behind your interpretation?”
Basically it’s a request for evidence and clarification in response to an assertion that you aren’t prepared to accept at face value. ( This was even the Buddha’s advice and I’m sure he wasn’t encouraging denigration. )
Denigration would be saying: “You’re talking absolute nonsense, your statement is ridiculous”
That said, you’re right: it’s a hard topic and I understand that people can often perceive an anodyne question as denigration if they’re sensitive, but that indicates their state of mind rather than the questioner’s intentions.
To me it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable or denigrating to ask what the real tangible benefits people say they derived from Sogyal actually are. I’d just like to know because my ‘experience’ may have been similar but my conclusions in the long term are very different.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but I have to be honest and say that in my case years of spiritual experience have been diminished to black and white, although they weren’t easy conclusions to arrive at.
@Lauren, I think I could have said my point of view better. Really my point wasn’t about whether you denigrated or questioned, but rather about the need to acknowledge that we can’t really judge another person’s meaning in this– we can only speak of our own meanings. I totally agree that debate is important, particularly in terms of analyzing the reality of the situation. But when it comes to judging another person’s spiritual reality, then it’s tricky and not so clear.
“we can’t really judge another person’s meaning in this– we can only speak of our own meanings.”
This seems to me a wonderful response to “What Now?” and perhaps even “What if (then?)”
I also posted an additional reply to an important point I missed and didn’t address in your last comment at the same time, it’s below.
I’m not sure why you think we can’t apply the same kind of critical thinking to spiritual reality as we do to everything else, I used to think that myself but it turned out to be the source of many wasted years and a lot of confusion.
Now I’m quite comfortable judging Sogyal’s ‘spirtual reality’ or anyone’s by my own rational standards. I should have done it much sooner than I did.
Sorry, I didn’t reply to the important point at the end of your post:
You said: “I think all Moonfire is asking for is to respect the diversity of experience and perspective that people are coming from.”
This is quite tricky and I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain what I mean but I’ll try anyway;
It’s that I think the word ‘respect’ has to be defined rather than used in a casual way that brings it closer to dumb, passive acceptance.
I might ‘respect’ someone as a person but that doesn’t mean I have to be slavishly uncritical of everything they say nor does it mean I shouldn’t disagree with them openly if they believe something that seems unfounded to me or which I think could eventually harm them or prove a problem in some way. That would be indifference and indicate a lack of respect.
My experience was that some students of Sogyal pretended to be respectful, non-judgmental and neutral about many things, when in fact they were just cut off and indifferent to others.
I’ll admit to occasionally behaving in a totally dumb uncritical way, but only with very frail elderly people who were fervent and very bigoted Catholics, slightly deranged racists and other simple-minded individuals whose unfounded beliefs it would have been inappropriate (or hazardous) to question. Not the case here obviously.
The other aspect is: why is this such a one-sided imperative? Is my definition of respect as explained above, automatically less important than someone else’s, just because it extends to questioning rather than passive acceptance? And even if that’s perceived as a lack of respect, shouldn’t it at least be respected equally? It has to go both ways surely?
As I said, debate and critical questioning is the norm in almost all areas of modern life……except religion of course, so from my point of view, when any argument arises that seeks to exclude that norm, it makes me wonder whether the real motive is to prevent any challenge to beliefs that are maintained by faith rather than fact.
Interestingly, this arose out of my discussion with Lola, who was quite happy to debate and explain her point of view, and everyone else seems to be too, so I’m not aware of anyone actually feeling attacked or disrespected.
Ha ha, good point at the end Lauren. E.G.: “Interestingly, this arose out of my discussion with Lola, who was quite happy to debate and explain her point of view, and everyone else seems to be too, so I’m not aware of anyone actually feeling attacked or disrespected.”
And I wasn’t feeling attacked myself either! So I am sorry if I caused an unnecessary debate…. And the fact is that this question of the real meaning behind all of our experiences as Rigpa students is a big one and an important one– and our failure to critically introspect is also a big issue– so I certainly wouldn’t want to dictate how these issues should be addressed! (But maybe that debate is important too 🙂
You didn’t cause a debate, I just think that there’s some anxiety that some people are more sensitive than others, which can be true, although if most people commenting here survived a few years in Rigpa, it’s
probably nothing to worry about.
‘Failure to critically introspect’….I really like that, it pretty much sums up my time in Rigpa (and so much more.) I will definitely steal your phrase at some point.
I feel you’re being a bit reactive. You are certainly reading things into my words that I didn’t put there.
You said about respect, “that doesn’t mean I have to be slavishly uncritical of everything they say nor does it mean I shouldn’t disagree with them openly if they believe something that seems unfounded to me or which I think could eventually harm them or prove a problem in some way.”
Of course not. I am amazed that you read that into my words. I was not inferring that at all. But I totally agree with you that the word ‘respect’ can be wrongly used as it was in Rigpa as a way to shut people down. That wasn’t my intention, however.
My comment wasn’t even directed at you. The ‘complaint’ I received that initiated that comment was about a different commenter. I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get back here earlier, but I am only able to visit here rarely these days.
Strange, I was quite convinced you were replying to me, but apparently not. Anyway, my mistake obviously, so my apologies and many thanks for clarifying that. I didn’t even consider that you might actually get private complaints.
Strewth, maybe I’m becoming over-sensitive myself. ( Stern note to self: It’s not always about you.)
With the exception of Lola, whose comment I haven’t had time to reply to yet, the explanations of what the benefit people derived from Sogyal was seem vague and thin on the ground, but it’s still early days in some ways.
Anyway, I’m really very glad to know that open debate is alive and well here. It’s very encouraging indeed.
Otherwise, I’d be very interested to hear what these ‘benefits’ actually consist of and what makes them still worth mentioning.
Pure vision doesn’t exclude anything. Not Sogyal Rinpoche, Donald Trump, an earthquake that kills thousands, a murderer, a rapist, each of us here. We are all born as time, moment giving way to moment, arriving together.
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
“I know there are plenty of people who will disagree with much of what I have said. For as much as I am set on my interpretations, so are others set on theirs. I have met great teachers whom I admire enormously and although I may be a doomed sycophant, I pray I will continue to enjoy the company of these teachers.
On the other hand, people may have other ideas and be happy with them. My practice is devotion to the Buddhist path; others may chose doubting the Buddhist path. But as Dharmakirti said, ultimately we must abandon the path.
So I hope in the end we will meet where we have nothing to fight over.”
I saw that you posted a quote by Dzongsar, whose narcissistic tendancies often contradict what he says.
Dzongsar is notorious for being the most hypocritical, politically opinionated Tibetan, who pretends to be very knowledgeable about the nuances of the West, but in actuality knows very little; which is clearly evident by his often insulting and outrageous generalisations that appeal to nobody other than his sycophantic devotees.
Moreover, let us not forget that Dzongsar was the biggest sympathiser of Sogyal. His callous words and deliberate ambiguity at Rigpa centres earlier this year caused a huge amount of unnecessary suffering for all of Sogyal’s sex abuse victims who wanted justice.
Dzongsar and Sogyal go back a long way, and are much closer than what most people think.
Eeew… this photo is so gross. Marge please don’t torment us with these photos again- it will bring me nightmares. Sogyal was probably just showing DKR a prided collage and had put it behind his back for this photo.
Rose you are so awesome for turning down DKR. You dodged a bullet (same size).
I just realized ‘The Tibetan Book of Rising and Falling’ has new meaning…sorry the photo of these two just took my humor to the gutter.
@concerned – 🙂 hahaha – don’t worry my mind had already gone there!!
I’m so thankful I dodged that ‘bullet’ as I know, with the magnitude of the betrayal of his promises to me and his deceitful and cowardly behaviour in the years following, that had I actually gone all the way with him, I could easily have ended up in a far darker place mentally/emotionally than I am now.
I so empathise with those women who did give it all to these Lamas only to find they were only one of hundreds or more others and that these Rinpoches had no remorse or honesty for the suffering they caused.
Honestly I think that story needs to be shared with the heads of lineages to read at the November meeting in Dharamsala. These lamas who pass female students around need feedback from their peers and from students that this practice needs to stop. I believe some big changes can come about at this meeting if enough people are honest and open about their experiences and reach out to the head of the lineages en masse. I would like to see more heads speaking out about it and showing any sort of helpful action and concern- not just HHDL, Mingyur R, and M Ricard.
That said, there will always be guys in all manners of robes with their lackeys and trail of dolled up women, though what they are all following and practicing is not buddhist. Sometimes it appears to be buddhist with the rituals and pomp and outer appearances, sometimes they support big causes that appear buddhist, sometimes they make films using their lackeys free help and sponsor money that might have some buddhist story, sometimes they teach texts. Most often their predecessors have discovered many termas so it must be frustrating to have only discovered one’s own dick in this lifetime. So if we didn’t have a core few examples of great practitioners such as HHDL who can actually show self restraint and mastery over their desires and compassion at the same time, I would throw in the towel.
“Most often their predecessors have discovered many termas so it must be frustrating to have only discovered one’s own dick in this lifetime”
Priceless . If this blog had awards for the sharpest, funniest comment on each thread, you’d have just won it hands down. Keep up the good work.
I totally agree with you there! 🙂
Remembered last night that Dzongsar Khyentse also told another woman I know to sleep with a famous Lama in Brazil who was about 100 in the shade for ‘good karmic link’ etc
Yup, women were fair game so how irksome and painfully awkward for them that this is now in the public domain – oh and so terribly regrettable that some of us won’t be manipulated into silence 😉
WTF? Is giving a lama oral sex or sleeping with him the advisable way to create a karmic link? That is something that should be literally read at the November meeting.
If anyone has access to the lamas names who are expected to attend/invited to that November meeting besides heads of the schools please post. And if it will be recorded or webcasted.
Can someone remind as to what the lama’s name was who silenced a woman at victim at Rigpa, who went to him for help and he told her to be quiet, that it was a great blessing from Sogyal? I want to say it was OT’s brother or else DKR’s father- trying to recall.
I’m a bit out of the loop social media wise so even though I have read a little online about the Nov meeting between lineage heads, I’m not sure what the purpose(s) of the meeting is/are. Also couldn’t ascertain who would be present other than the karmapa.
I’m not sure what I can do really – I’m a rare thing as far as outing DKR’s dodgy behaviour and frankly the sexual stuff with me was less harmful (although a part of the whole picture) than other ethical breaches which amounted to more than just his breaking of his vajra samaya towards women.
I have thrown in the towel re Tibetan buddhist practice at the moment as just too disillusioned and put off – although my trust in the truth of much of the teachings is intact. So what I’m saying is that I see my capacity to network and make an impact is limited at this time and not sure I want to/have the energy to put my head above the parapet on my own!
Think the lama you’re referring to was Thinley Norbu -read it on this blog…
Here is a link to it
and another worth looking at:
you probably already know about #metooguru petition to ask the Dalai Lama to endorse and implement the following requests and to which he agreed to:
• To accept our compilation of survivors’ testimonies in person during your visit to the Netherlands and respond to some of our ideas for follow-up actions;
• To ask the Mind & Life Institute that holds your frequent dialogues with scientists and Buddhists to host a meeting on human sexuality, sexual abuse by lay and ordained religious teachers, and sexual trauma;
• To put abuse by lay and ordained Buddhist teachers on the agenda of the intended gathering of religious leaders and representatives of the major Tibetan schools in Dharamsala in November 2018;
• To reaffirm publicly that Buddhist teachers who commit crimes and misdemeanors, just like any other citizen, are liable to criminal prosecution and civil action.
@rose there is little information out on the Nov meeting so you probably know as much as I.
Sadly too it will probably be all men in that meeting, some of whom have abused their power themselves, and with the exception of HHDL most of whom who have remained silent and carry on.
This article is excellent and I do hope this Tibetan psychologist is invited to participate in the Mind Life conference and even briefly present to the lamas in November. But again, I think the Bir lamas need to be in that room.
@concerned – thanks for your replies and the links – I will peruse soon!
I personally also think that in addition to and as a part of addressing sexual abuse, the conversation needs to be had about the possible manifestion of what western psychology has identified as personality disorders of various types and degrees by some lamas. The upbringing of many of the teachers we are discussing could easily explain the sociopathic qualities people have witnessed and suffered under… for example the narcissism, deception, grandiosity and cold detachment along with charm, manipulativeness and high intelligence.
The more these all these things are brought into the light and tenaciously engaged with, the more informed potential students can be and the less opportunity the ‘predators’ will have to ‘hunt’.
Imagine being in a room full of Bir lamas – just wow.
@concerned, re your query as to who the Lama was “who silenced a woman….” I have a recollection of the anecdote and what my thoughts were at the time as to who the lama could have been, although i don’t recall the story in quite the same way as you have. Was it not from a video about sexual abuse in TB, perhaps the one that features Mimi though not sure if Mimi related that particular anecdote.
My memory of it is that a young woman told the story of feeling completely distraught about the Lamacare scene & her treatment at the hands of Sogyal and she had the opportunity at LL to express her feelings to a visiting Lama whom she thought would be sympathetic as he had a Western wife. Instead, he told her it was a great blessing to be the consort of a Lama. I don’t recall anything about him actively silencing her but my thoughts as to who it could have been correlate with yours.
Rose, i’m guessing that would be the late Chagdud Tulku? I remain disappointed that i never got to attend any teachings from him but anyhow, his wife is part of the advisory group for Dzongsar’s new school. As i believe she’s a Buddhist teacher in her own right, I wonder how she reconciles DKR’s sleazy, bizarre social media with his presence as the figurehead of a Buddhist primary school.
Nor do i find it acceptable that Western female Buddhist teachers, including her, appear to be silent regarding the much-publicised abuse by Sogyal, the Sakyong, etc. I think we have earned the right to demand better!
Friend of Sogyal, admirer of Putin – we’re all judged by the company we keep.
Thanks for your reply.
I’m really not being flippant, but it’s just too mystical for me to make sense of, it’s a strangely evocative poem but I don’t know what the author is actually saying. Perhaps some oceanic experience of all-inclusiveness similar to the experiences people have with temporal lobe epilepsy, MDMA or LSD.
As for DKR, well I think he’s a rather dangerous creep and so I’d place the same value on anything he says as the publicity blurb on a cheap, pre-packed chicken sandwich which is well past it’s sell-by date.
No need to be sorry. Our inspirations come in different ways.
I too wish we can meet at the end with nothing to fight over.
Anybody who found Dzongsar’s defense of Sogyal to be inspirational, should seek advice.
No wonder that Dzongsar’s sycophantic devotees have a reputation !
Blunt, but it made me laugh.
No more spooky photos though, please.
It is good you comment, but I think to disparage one another is to continue the cycle.
When in the Rigpa Organization, we disaparaged those who didn’t have enough faith. Now we disparage those who express the inspiration they find in these hard times.
There is a place of listening that doesn’t activate the same cycle. It seems to me as long as we just take the other side of the coin (yes/no) then nothing much has really changed. The pattern starts again in new forms.
Taking one another in good faith and trying to understand to the best of our ability creates quite a different environment than the one from which the difficulties emerged.
Due to the immense seriousness of sex abuse, this is no time to be mealy-mouthed.
With a compassionate motivation, forceful words must be used when necessary, and moreover, the law of the land must be enforced.
Having known people who’ve suffered in the hands of a sex abuser, and having then seen the life-long emotional scars that they have had to deal with, it is crucial that everybody unite and stand up against it wherever it occurs. #MeTooGuru
I do not know how you can imply that I have disparaged, when Dzongsar, the person you profess to draw inspiration from, is the most notorious Tibetan in the history of Buddhism in the West, with his continuous disparaging remarks, childish social media stunts, and grossly insulting generalizations – all of which contributes towards disharmony.
I’m incredibly curious about one thing – could you please elaborate on how you drew inspiration from Dzongsar when he defended Sogyal, which caused a huge amount of unnecessary further suffering to Sogyal’s sex abuse victims.
Thanks for your comments.
Sometimes it helps to just mirror back one’s own words to answer a question:
> I do not know how you can imply that I have disparaged…
Imagine someone saying this to you:
“Anybody who found [what Marge finds inspiring] to be inspirational, should seek advice.”
> Having known people who’ve suffered in the hands of a sex abuser, and having then seen the life-long emotional scars that they have had to deal with, it is crucial that everybody unite and stand up against it wherever it occurs
I deal with lifelong scars/compost from emotional and physical abuse. One thing I’ve learned is that “what is crucial” is very individual.
“I’m incredibly curious about one thing — could you please elaborate…”
Forgive me, as it is hard to tell online, but it doesn’t seem you are genuinely, compassionately curious, but perhaps are just looking for a way to argue, debate or prove me wrong.
Communication via forum seems ripe with potential for misunderstandings. If you would like to try and have a dialogue via Skype or Hangouts it would be good to talk with you. Perhaps, hearing one another’s voice, seeing each other’s face could open up doors for listening?
You seem to have digressed and evaded my sincere question. Therefore, I will reiterate what I said: There is nothing inspirational about the manipulative cover-ups of a sex abuser’s sympathiser.
Thank you for inviting me to discuss this with you in private, but sharing views on this message thread with the public helps to safeguard them from becoming the next victim. With the greatest respect, although having a private discussion can at times have benefits, it can also entirely defeat the objective. Therefore, I have to take the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama – With a compassionate motivation, publicly speak out.
As I said earlier, nobody must not be mealy-mouthed any more, it’s gone on far too long. Too much is at stake. Sex abuse is an extremely serious crime that must be stopped, and the law must be enforced. And the ancient lineages of Buddhism must be protected from being sullied within a single generation.
*Nobody must be mealy-mouthed any more, it’s gone on far too long.
I read in your comments such things as the importance of active listening and genuine respectful dialogue. Now you also speak of not disparaging others.
Can I ask you whether you have read my numerous comments over the past year and most recently in the last thread I believe, regarding my personal experiences with Dzongsar Khyentse? It took much courage to publicly speak out about just some of the highly questionable behaviour acted out on me by the one whom I thought was my tsawe lama. His behaviour can accurately be labelled as grooming and as a gross breach of trust and duty of care by a middle aged spiritual teacher on his very young, innocent and trusting student. Also as an aside, there is more than just sexual impropriety that occurred between myself and this lama.
If you have indeed read my comments, then I have to wonder at your capacity for listening and respecting when you go ahead and post a quote by this same man as your inspiration. Naturally, you are free to gain inspiration from whomever you choose but as I see it, you could have chosen from limitless other inspiring quotes by other teachers out of respect for a woman – in this case me, bravely speaking out here. I mean, we don’t see people posting inspiring quotes by Sogyal as it would be plainly innappropriate and possibly hurtful to his victims. So I wonder at your posting this quote. It does feel like a total disregard of the validity of my experiences, disrespectful and insensitive.
If by some chance you actually haven’t read my comments and the ensuing discussions about DKR then please disregard my feedback as it would have been misplaced and irrelevant and accept my acknowledgement and apology for it.
Thanks for your email. It seems that comments on a board or email can be easily misunderstood and much can be missed.
I’d love to talk with you or anyone else by Skype or Hangouts. I’m convinced we would get beyond these issues very quickly and find understanding in each of our experiences.
Well, as with Marge, you have avoided responding to/addressing my question and concerns so you are still not showing that you have listened/heard me in good faith.
I’m doing my best here, but I think my comments are misunderstood.
My understanding of this board was not that it was just for survivors, but it is asking “What Now?” to everyone affected. As a student of Sogyal Rinpoche for over 30 years, I was deeply affected by what happened and am doing my best to join in this conversation.
My invitation to speak together in a more direct setting for communication is meant in good faith and I hope that you will take me up on it. My experience with moving from email/forums to direct communication is that blocks and issues are often cleared up very quickly.
Hi Rose & Marge,
I’ll give another go.
The crux of the issue for me is creatively changing the situation so that the likelihood of repeating the pattern is greatly reduced.
If we just move to the other side of the coin, I don’t feel that change is possible, in fact it seems (while a good first step) if this approach continues we are increasing the chance the problem will occur again.
As Peter Senge wrote
“The difficulty here is that until individuals take responsibility for their own life experience, or at least their experience of their experience, little deep change is possible. The challenge, when you are dealing with larger-scale human systems, is that collectively people have to take some responsibility. I think it’s a perfect parallel to that therapeutic axiom that a person can see awful things that have happened to them in their life, but until they see their own part, they can never escape a victimology mindset, and a victim mind certainly cannot generate any real creative energies for change. De Maree used this term sociotherapy. From the standpoint of the purpose or intent or the theory of change, it is probably exactly right. It’s how we collectively learn to take responsibility for the conditions we have created.”
As a survivor of long term abuse above is my primary view and I’ve found it extraordinarily helpful. It might provide context for some of the things I’ve written. An invitation to meet more directly is part of a creative experiment for that change.
Following the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many people are at last making their concerns public.
I have witnessed many fruitful discussions on this blog over the months, where many people have shared their first-hand witness accounts for the benefit of all.
Without public platforms like this, many innocent people would have still been kept in the dark, and may have been lured into an environment of brainwashing and sex abuse – just like all of Sogyal’s sex abuse victims at Rigpa.
I am sorry if you feel that you can not adequately articulate your thoughts and feelings in writing, and I wish that you hadn’t evaded my question – asking you to elaborate on how you drew inspiration from Dzongsar when he defended Sogyal, which caused a huge amount of unnecessary further suffering to Sogyal’s sex abuse victims.
Rick, you have to accept and respect that many people will also question your stance, particularly as you were the one who had initially announced it in writing on this public platform. Moreover, many people, like myself, find it perfectly adequate to respond to you in the same way – in writing on this public platform.
Thanks for your email, Marge.
I’ll try to reply, though you may not have seen another attempt with the quote from Peter Senge.
“Following the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many people are at last making their concerns public.”
This is very good. As the Dalai Lama has known about these issues for 25 years (according to his own words) might he have spoken up earlier?
“I have witnessed many fruitful discussions on this blog over the months, where many people have shared their first-hand witness accounts for the benefit of all.”
Yes, me, too!
“Without public platforms like this, many innocent people would have still been kept in the dark, and may have been lured into an environment of brainwashing and sex abuse – just like all of Sogyal’s sex abuse victims at Rigpa.”
Yes, I agree. I’ve been raising these issues since 1987, many people that are now coming out against the teachers were telling discouraging this way of thinking then. If you read below, I was suggesting the same things then as now.
“I am sorry if you feel that you can not adequately articulate your thoughts and feelings in writing, and I wish that you hadn’t evaded my question – ”
It isn’t a matter of adequately articulating my thoughts, but of being misunderstood as may happen here. I’m also not so interested in argument, but here we are, so I’ll (probably foolishly) jump in!
“asking you to elaborate on how you drew inspiration from Dzongsar when he defended Sogyal, which caused a huge amount of unnecessary further suffering to Sogyal’s sex abuse victims.”
The quote I referenced was from 1987, not from Rinpoche’s talk about Sogyal, though I might find inspirational things there. Did you read the quote? Let me ask you, why do you not find the quote inspiring, just because of who wrote it?
Listen what Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (quoted in the main article) had to say about Trungpa:
“Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a Tibetan incarnate lama who understood the Western mind. Through the years, I have appreciated the many teachings that he imparted. The students of Rinpoche, whom I have met, are unshakably dedicated to the Buddhadharma. I rejoice in this.”
Mingyur Dorje quotes Trungpa Rinpoche 3 times in The Joy of Living 143, 204 & 240. perhaps you should email him and ask him to stop?
Lola quoted Sogyal Rinpoche in this thread, perhaps she should be scolded, too?
Maybe we should expunge all the teachings from all the masters who’ve ever committed abuse along with those who support them in any way? How far should we take this line of thinking? Maybe we should start with a list of those to exclude? Have we seen where this leads us historically?
“Rick, you have to accept and respect that many people will also question your stance, ”
Could you tell me what my stance is? Add a steelman argument to what you are saying and get more specific?
I’ll help out, here’s some thoughts:
We might communicate more.
We could experiment with ways to communicate more directly.
We might not only focus on the teachers, but also on ourselves.
We could not only hold the teachers responsible, but ourselves, too.
We can look for patterns that may have contributed to the past problems and see how they might be manifesting now.
We might try to listen more toward one another and keep communicating with one another as best as we can.
Is there something you strongly disagree with in the above?
“particularly as you were the one who had initially announced it in writing on this public platform. Moreover, many people, like myself, find it perfectly adequate to respond to you in the same way – in writing on this public platform.”
Yes, of course and I’m not suggesting otherwise!
I am suggesting that email and forum style communication tends to lead to misunderstanding and that as this misunderstanding appears, we might explore other means of more direct communication.
Thanks and regards,
You continue to digress and digress, moving further and further away from the pertinent topic. Moreover, you are now trying to mislead others by throwing in names and quotes of squeaky clean, living Tibetan Buddhist teachers in a feeble attempt to conceal Dzongsar’s murky side and spectacular failure.
1. Sogyal committed sex abuse, which caused innocent people to suffer immensely.
2. Dzongsar publicly defended Sogyal’s heinous actions again and again, causing the same people to suffer even more, and moreover, causing them to question their own sanity.
3. Only Sogyal’s or Dzongsar’s brainwashed sycophantic devotees would deny those two points and find their actions to be inspirational.
Rick, it is clearly apparent that you continue to evade, digress, and quite frankly, clog up any rational dialogue in order to defend or promote Dzongsar. For that reason I will no longer waste any more time in communicating with you regarding this. Period.
Nobody should be mealy-mouthed. It has gone on far too long. Too much is at stake. Sex abuse is an extremely serious crime that must be stopped. And the ancient lineages of Buddhism must be protected from being sullied within a single generation. #MeTooGuru
I’m sorry you read my comments to be “mealy-mouthed, brainwashed, sycophantic, evasive, digressive, and a clog to any rational dialogue. Period.”
It is what I feared when I held back in responding. Online communication is difficult.
I am not feeling offended by your comments and I appriciate different opinions. In a democratie we don’t have to always agree with each other.
Now to Your question about why to mention benefits received in Rigpa:
1.) Mentioning benefits received in the past doesn’t condonde abuse. It’s not like, if a simular case happens, you say: “Oh well, the teachings are so beneficial and nice, so forget about the abuse.” That might have been the attitude of those in Rigpa, who covered it up, but this is not, what I am saying.
2.) Accepting, what has happened is a reasonable attidude, because it has already happened. And our resisting and judging it doesn’t make it not have happened. (See Eckhard Tolle on this topic) Important is, where you go from there.
3.) Einstein once said, the most important decision which people have to make in their life is, to whether believe you live in a friendly or hostile universe.
4.) If you think of you past life to be a failiure, it is less probable, it will be a success in the future, because you come from an attitude of lack. And also you make yourself into a victim. So if instead of thinking: My time in Rigpa was a waste of time and money, etc. I would rather see it as the time and money I obviously needed to learn the lesson that I learned, provided I believe to live in a friendly universe that is not interested in me wasting my lifetime and money.
5.) We all obiously learned a lesson and changed, otherwise we would still be in Rigpa with the same attitude we had 10 years ago. And one of the lesson we learned was to take our power back from external authorities (like Gurus, Lamas, Doctors, Politicians, etc.) and instead turn inwards and find the Inner Teacher. That is perheaps one of the most important lessons of our lifes.
And we also learned how manipulation and cults work, so we can make the information available to others and make sure it is less probable that this will happen again to so many people.
6.) Research has shown that 10 Minutes of heartfelt gratitude will boost your immune system for a whole day. So gratidude and appreciation of benefits received bring again benefit for your health, whereas negative emotions as anger, resentment are rather detrimental for the health. For further informations about this topic I reccomend the books of Dr. Joe Dispenza.
7.) We remember, what we focus on or “energy follows your attention”.
P.e. if you look around in a room and focus on all the red things in the room and then close your eyes, and when I then say to you to remember all the blue things you saw, it will be rather difficult for you, at least more difficult than to remember the red things. So what we focus on is more present in our experiences and colours our emotions. So to a certain extend we have control over our experiences and emotions. And if we look for the benefits in our life, we will find them. (That does not mean to denial hurt, but also not to hold on to it after you processed it. And if you have found your Inner Teacher, you will know the difference for yourself.)
8.) By appreciating what we learned in and from Rigpa, we also appreciate the contribution of the survivors, who to a very large part contributed to that learning process and – like the 8 writers of the letter – inspired countless people. So they are not just “victims”, but beside their own learing process made a significant contribution for the healing of the world during their time in Rigpa and afterwards.
I could bring more arguments having to do with our state of mind, but that would go to deep and to long for this blog. So I refer for those who are interested to the books and teachings of Marianne Williamson, who are really brilliant and in depth. P.e. she goes in detail into the difference between “denial” and “transcendence” of experiences, the meaning of forgivness and the difference to being a “doormate” and much more.
All the best to you all
“By appreciating what we learned in and from Rigpa, we also appreciate the contribution of the survivors,”
Yes, and all students and teachers who participated with best of their motivations.
If we can find good faith in one another, we might discover the richness Thich Nhat Hanh writes of.
Perhaps there are other ways available to us through listening to one another in good faith. If we can’t aspire to D. Bohm style dialogue, there are also many more straightforward approaches
Thank you, Rick, for your comment.
Do you know Marshall Rosenberg and his “Non-violent-communication”?
I like that very much, and I think it should be tought in schools, and our world would be different.
Yes, I do know of Rosenberg and appreciate his work.
The NVC website describes that approach to communication in this way “can seem like a ‘foreign language’ and a significant departure from the way we are used to looking at things.”
I haven’t revisited it much lately, thank you for the reminder.
Many thanks Ruth, that’s given me a lot to think on, I really appreciate your taking time to explain so much of your view point in depth. That’s exactly what I enjoy about this blog.
I’m afraid I don”t have time to reply and do it justice right now, I’ll need to read it very thoroughly first, but I will definitely reply soon.
Thank you, Lauren, for your kind answer and for taking the time to think about it. And don’t put yourself under stress with answering it. If you find some helpful impulses in it, I will be happy.
Thanks, hopefully I’ll get time to reply this weekend.
Sorry for my very belated reply. I’ll try and address your points in the same formal way that you set them out.
1. Firstly I wasn’t suggesting you personally condoned abuse, that never occurred to me, but when benefit is mentioned, it raises the possibility that the full extent of mind-control that took place hasn’t been understood because those experiences and their perceived benefits were part of that, so it seems odd not to be suspicious of their reality.
2.I don’t know what you mean by ‘accepting what has happened’….it happened but accept what about it exactly and in what sense? Yes you can’t resist the past but you can judge it….that’s how we learn.
3.No disrespect to Albert but I can’t make sense of that ( all of his other stuff is beyond my intellectual capacity too) I think the universe isn’t sentient, that it doesn’t have any mechanism or intention to be hostile or friendly, there are conditions that can be hostile or conducive to different species but even that fluctuates. Unless you are actually Einstein, I don’t see how you could decide anything about the universe. It’s mostly empty space.
4.I’m ok with understanding what went wrong, that doesn’t mean I think life was a ‘failure’ and it doesn’t have any negative impact apart from making me cautious and sceptical, but it was a massive waste and I don’t think the universe is interested in me or that at all.
5. You’re absolutely correct and I agree with this entirely.
6. I wonder how anyone maintains any feeling continually for 10 minutes. Joe Dispenza is a chiropracter with a degree from the University of Life who writes about Quantum….. not a real doctor and definitely not a physicist either, so not my cup of tea .
7. Sorry this is too New Age-y for me to grasp, but if I ever do find my inner teacher I’m going to ask the bastard for my money back.
8. I mostly agree with this and ‘survivors’ is a particularly good way to look at it, but ‘healing the world’ seems well over the top to me.
So, all joking aside, many thanks, I’ll take a look at Marianne Williamson, who I’ve never heard of.
I think a lot of people have benefited from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, although many people consider Andrew Harvey to be the true author of the book. For me it opened the door to a practical DIY form spirituality which was based on logic and common sense which I found very refreshing and empowering at the time. I left the Riga sangha in 2000 because I couldn’t culturally reconcile myself with all the Tibetan-centric features of how Rigpa presented the Buddhist teachings. I have since gone on to embrace more spiritualist views but still have a fondness for Tibetan Buddhism due to the TBOLD and Sogyal’s simple and accessible teaching style. Having said that, I’m angry to hear what Sogyal has been up to behind the scenes and frankly I would like to see him charged for his offenses like Weinstein.
@Laureen. You said, “If this blog is founded on the idea that people’s sensitivity to being disagreed with precludes frank and honest debate” It isn’t founded on that idea, and that wasn’t what I was saying.
You continued to say, “…then don’t you think it will be rather limited to people who broadly agree with one another?” That isn’t the idea. My comment was simply aimed at helping to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable stating their opinion. In other words it was in support of “frank and honest debate” not against it. But ultimately it is in support of a view that sees both the good and the bad in our Rigpa experience, because for most of us, both were present, even if the good was just the friends we made and the comunity we belonged to. The community might have been based on a lie, and the friends may have fallen away or abused us when we left, but had we not gained something, we would not have stayed. Even cult recovery literature encourages survivors to acknowledge what they gained from their time in the cult, even if in hindsight it’s tainted by the bad.
I hope this is a space where people feel they can talk about both the good and the bad, because both are part of our experience.
Personally, I can look back and see how I benefitted at the time, and I can also see how I was held back in my spiritual growth by the very teachings that were supposed to liberate me because they were used in a cultish fashion to contol us. I can see how my extensive Vajrayana practice changed my perception of the world and made me freer of it, something I would not have done had it not been for Sogyal, and I can also see how his teachings caused me to betray my deepest values. I see no need to deny either aspect of my experience, and that’s my moderation comment was designed to do – not deny any person’s experience.
Thanks, that’s very clear, and very thorough. I seem to have misunderstood your intentions obviously.
I think this divergence of view must be due to a sort of profound personality difference and to be fair, I think most comments here support your view rather than mine by a very large percentage and it’s time for me to stop expressing my puzzlement at all this talk of benefit.
When I found out about the abuse my view changed very fast indeed, almost in a kind of moment of revelation, it reversed in fact and I just walked away in disgust without hesitation or any lingering ambivalence. Maybe I’d been building up to it subconsciously but I can’t honestly say.
It took a while to really understand what had happened of course, but having understood I haven’t ever been able to see benefits that weren’t completely accidental, and even these were negligible compared to the time and energy wasted. Not worth mentioning in my case at least.
I thought I was gaining something too, but this was a delusion, in reality I was losing irreplaceable time and I accept that now without hesitation. Trying to balance it out with what to me are insignificant advantages doesn’t occur to me. Your assessment of good and bad is very scrupulous and honest, and obviously meaningful for you and most other people, but I don’t understand what the point of untangling them really is. Maybe I’m missing something here.
Practice changed my perception too but only temporarily, it didn’t free me from anything, only leaving did that, and the freedom I got from doing it has lasted. I felt like someone getting out of prison after a long sentence and I had no fond memories of being incarcerated at all. I simply don’t think Sogyal benefited me in the slightest, he had no sincere intention to and he was someone I’d rather never have met.
On the other hand I wasn’t aware of betraying anything, I was just naive to the point of stupidity.
I think the other divergence is because many people are still concerned with spiritual development which is something more elevated in ambition than my aim of just being a reasonably decent person. Even the term is meaningless to me now. Other than human emotion I’m not able to say what ‘spirituality’ is.
I have some suspicion that I may often be talking at cross purposes, because whereas many people’s main concerns are about that kind of lofty spirituality, mine are about ordinary, everyday truth and morality. (Possibly the foundation of the Buddhas teaching but it didn’t feature much in Rigpa.)
Thank you again for taking time to explain.
I am from the UK, and within the main article of this page I saw that the analogy of Jimmy Saville was used. He was a household name in the UK for decades, presenting the most popular children’s TV show called Jim’ll Fix It, where children would write in to ask if he could fix it for them to do something that was out of their reach, like swimming with dolphins or skydiving. Millions tuned in to watch it every week, year after year. While off camera he used his position to access children’s hospitals under the guise of morale lifting and fund raising, while secretly, by their bedsides, he committed sex abuse.
Now nobody is saying that Sogyal abused minors, but the way in which he used his position to access and sexually abuse those who had placed all their trust in him is strikingly similar to that of Jimmy Saville.
Years on, Jimmy Saville’s name is still associated with his sex abuse. No matter how much benefit he had brought to other people, the memory of his sex abuse can never be separated from that. It is forever mixed.
Similarly, nobody is denying that Sogyal brought benefit by introducing people to the Dharma (with the invaluable assistance of many unpaid helpers I might add) but that positive memory of him will always be mixed with the negative memory of his sex abuse. And with any common sense, all of the people who weren’t completely brainwashed at Rigpa have already disassociated from him, just like everybody did with Jimmy Saville.
Here is a commentary article from lawyers in the UK, based on the Lewis Silkin report.
It should really drive home just how serious the situation is, particularly for Rigpa UK:
“In relation to other regulatory authorities, the Charity Commission can remove an organisation’s charitable status, which would be a highly effective way of dramatically reducing its finances and in effect putting it out of business. The Commission has made it very clear in recent years that they will expect organisations with safeguarding problems to launch an investigation, co-operate with the authorities and put right what they can before they are allowed to move on.”
In addition to RH there seems to be A Buddhist Tribunal in Hong Kong and they gave an ethical judgement : Judgment on Rigpa & Sogyal Rinpoche Case 41-2018: RIGPA Sect & Sogyal Rinpoche.
Link ethical judgement:
That page looks like a one-person project, Jan. Not really legitimate.
I have found that page as well a few weeks ago.
When reading m ore carefully I found out its weird stuff.
Someone put time and money to undermine buddhism in an almost funny way.
@RH and Adamo
Thanks for your comment, it is a strange world.
RH and Adamo
You made me curiuos
The building excists, the email address not, but protonmail.com does excist and it is interesting to read the heading ‘about’ and look at the persons who developped it.
Perhaps there is a clue or not
They just took over the name of the International Peace Bureau, that hadnt existed anymore, take a lot of names that sounds good and invest lots of copy and paste to make all that writing.
It seems to go along with a chinese trader company, but the link to it has removed carefully after it was found out.
Just check this page to see what I mean: https://buddhistnations-gov.net/2018/08/01/president/
I am too naive for this word a gues.
Does anyone have any information about what happened in Lerab Ling today (Sept 19th, 2018)?
Multiple sources say that Lerab Ling was raided by the French police on Wednesday. It is neither wise nor compassionate to consider yourself above the law.
#Rigpa #MeTooGuru @SogyalRinpoche
Is there more news about this presumed raid?
I’ve been looking, but unable to find more news or links to “multiple sources”.
I’ll post back if I find more,
I looked at midi libre but nothing was mentioned there
Multiple sources or are they all linking back to Sogyal Truth?
I don’t know, that was a quote from Twitter with those tags.
Rich post from the Tibetan Feminist Collective.
@Matilda, it was Dzigar Kongtrul. That’s not all he’s done, aside from forcing a plural marriage on his bizarre wife, I understand money was raised for young orphans who were turned into monks but used to buy him a house in a Colorado suburb..
Yes, notsohopeful, that was who i figured at the time. I don’t know any of them now, but it’s occurred to me how radiant Elizabeth looks – and she’s forged a successful career for herself as a teacher in her own right, more or less. I would never defend the promiscuity of these lamas but maybe she got the better end of the deal in that she’s an independent woman who doesn’t have to play the little wife. Let’s face it, being married to a lama means you’re always subservient to him in every way.
You say she was forced into it, but couldn’t she have split the scene if she’d wanted to? I know they have a son – he strikes me as possibly a bit of a wimp. Also, wondering why you’ve called her “bizarre”?
Has there been any condemnation from Elizabeth Matthis Namgyel of the sexual abuse? I know, they all have too much to protect – so much for the “power of an open question”. So much for the courage of aspiring Bodhisattvas! Once were warriors but not now!
astounding if true ! Had him in high regard
Asking the question :”Can you still take Sogyal as your teacher now that you know what he is really like?” is a wrong question to me.
Rather: “Can you still take Sogyal as your teacher now that you know what many witnesses told about him?”
Before knowing who he really is, we should know who we really are. Anybody?
In a buddhist perspective, on a relative level we are all karmic being and Sogyal will pay his due as anybody else.
And let’s remember that as Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous, so the Buddha came for the egoists, that is all of us. And Bodhicitta is his answer: unconditional compassion for all.
On the absolute level….I’m not qualified to say anything, yet I can report what a friend of mine, sexually abused by a man on the busy street, threatened with a knife, while nobody noticing, told after a few years: the only way she could relieve from that burden was to forgive and have mercy, not only the man whom she could not even see in the face but also society at large, and free herself of the horror and the heaviness in her heart. She’s an Orthodox Christian.
I’m not sure I could do that, yet the change in her has been astounding.
Even the 8 letter writers speak of reconciliation.
As for me, I always understood that Vajrayana was not for me. I couldn’t believe that a lot of people runned to Tibetan lamas after reading the stories of Marpa, Tilopa, Naropa, Milarepa and all that stuff. As Dzongsar says: meeting Tilopa today, you would call the police!
It was the seventies, Trungpa’s golden era! Now the stream has changed and with the tipical rapacity of the West, people whant to take possession of alien culture and imagine a decaffeinated version of Vajrayana.
( ps: I’m basically eclectic in buddhism, and never had a master. Yet my basic instinct goes to Christ, to Magdalene, the most abused woman in christian history, as she was identified with a repentant prostitute for many centuries, while she was completely another figure in Luke’s gospel. Men won the initial fight for power in the church…..)