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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by MichaelRaab from Pixabay

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

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

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

HH Dalai Lama, The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Leaving the Boat Too Early

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

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

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

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Dzongsar Khyentse & his Dance with Nihilism

broken buddha

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


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

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

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

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The Charity Commission Enquiry into Rigpa UK: Change or Just Survival?

Thanks to Jo Green for the following post about the Charity Commission enquiry into Rigpa UK. I hope you’ll take the action he suggests at the end to hold Rigpa UK to account. Australian residents could do the same with the Australian Charity Commission as well.

The Charity Commission enquiry into Rigpa UK

The report of the Inquiry by the Charity Commission for England and Wales into Rigpa UK has been published, and it makes for uncomfortable reading. This is the highest-level investigation into the management of Rigpa and the actions of Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar so far completed. The Charity Commission sits within the UK’s Department of Justice and although their remit and powers relate only to the proper management of charities, their reports can be used by the police as part of criminal investigations. This is the summary of their findings:

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Update on the Saga of Dagri Rinpoche’s Sexual Abuse

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:With_Dagri_Rinpoche.jpg

Below is the update posted by the group of FPMT senior nuns who set up the petition asking for an investigation in the allegations of abuse by Dagri Rinpoche of the FPMT. Also see the article on this on the Buddhism Controversy blog .

The FPMT are managing this much better than Rigpa in that they admit what he has done and apologise. In the update of Nov 20th, they say, ‘We accept that, according to the standard applied by FaithTrust Institute, Dagri Rinpoche committed sexual misconduct, which also qualifies as spiritual abuse given his position as a spiritual teacher’, and at the end they say they ‘apologise again to the victims for the suffering experienced’. Rigpa couldn’t even manage that much.

 In October, 2019 the FPMT Board hired FaithTrust Institute (FTI) to conduct an independent fact-finding assessment of allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Dagri Rinpoche. A confidential mailbox was set up so anyone who experienced or witnessed harm by Dagri Rinpoche could make a report.

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Sexual Abuse framed by Faith or Belief

This is a topic we all know a lot about, yes? But it’s great to see Inform have a seminar on the issue.

The video below is a recording of the Inform seminar on: ‘Sexual Abuse framed by Faith or Belief – Exploring boundaries and contexts’ held on Wednesday 22 July 2020 7-8:30pm BST. The seminar considered the issue of sexual abuse occurring within religious contexts in hopes of identifying new ways of considering the problem and potential ways of mitigating harm.

See below the video for information about the content and speakers, but our Beyond the Temple friends Damcho and Mary participated in the seminar, so you may like to listen to their part if not the whole thing.

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3 Years After the Fall: How Do You Feel Now?

The letter written by 8 students detailing Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse of his students was sent to the Rigpa Sangha in July 2017. Three years on, we can look back with some distance. I contemplated my feelings in this video, but I’d like to hear how you all are feeling these days? What are you up to now? What do you think/feel about all that has happened? What do you see for your future?

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Minding our own business – and Rigpa’s unfinished business…

Despite the recommendations of The Lewis Silkin independent investigation into Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse and the ruling of the UK Charity Commission, Patrick Gaffney is teaching an online retreat for Rigpa.

The event is, perhaps aptly, called ‘Minding our own business’.

It’s a relevant question for us: why do we, who stepped away from Rigpa, still mind Rigpa’s business? Why not let them do their thing and get on with our lives?

The answer is simple: because Rigpa is still passing on the harmful beliefs that enabled the abuse that took place during decades in Rigpa. That’s the bottom line. If your belief is harmless and only concerns yourself, there’s no problem. However, if it could harm or endanger others, then there is a big problem.

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How Do We Know What’s True? A major problem of our time

What brought this community together back in July of 2017 [under the name of What Now?] was our search for the truth about Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar and his organisation, Rigpa. So it seems fitting that my first post after a period of silence is on the topic of truth, albeit in a more general application. Anyone who uses the internet has likely been touched by the avalanche of misinformation, outright lies and conspiracy theories, so much of this post won’t be news to you, but I have included copious links to some excellent articles that are well worth a read if you want the full grubby picture.

You may have noticed that the manipulation of people through the distortion of truth that we’re seeing in the world, particularly in the USA, is eerily similar to how we were manipulated in our cults. Scary shit, indeed. I’d love to hear in the comments how you handle this pandemic of misinformation and any experiences you have to share on the topic.

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