True Teachers are Kind: A Second Letter to Sogyal Lakar

I received this letter to Sogyal Lakar today along with permission to post it on this blog. 
“…true teachers are kind, compassionate, and tireless in their desire to share whatever wisdom they have acquired from their masters, never abuse or manipulate their students under any circumstances, never under any circumstances abandon them, serve not their own ends but the greatness of the teachings, and always remain humble. Real trust can and should only grow toward someone who you come to know, over time, embodies all these qualities.”
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, page 134
January 11, 2018
Dear Sogyal Lakar,
We join with many members of the Rigpa sangha, and the greater Buddhist world, who wish that you would explain your actions that we attested to in our July 14, 2017 letter, so that reconciliation and healing can begin.
Our original letter six months ago was to you, our Buddhist teacher, asking for clarification on a number of matters. First, are your sexual relations with many of your female students in accordance with the Dharma? Second, are your physical beatings and emotional abuse of us and other students in accordance with the Dharma? And third, is financing your sybaritic lifestyle by using donations from students in accordance with the Dharma? If those actions are not in accordance with the Dharma, we asked you to refrain from them now and in the future. We expected answers to our questions.
The teachings you have shared in the past thirty years, including writing the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, have benefitted us and so many people around the world. We do not believe that this benefit is an excuse for you to abuse students sexually, emotionally, physically, and financially. Should you choose to explain your actions to us, we will listen to you intently—not through your proxies or other Buddhist teachers. If you concur that your actions have harmed students, we believe the first step towards healing is for you to publicly admit, and apologize, to the many who you have harmed. We are waiting.
Instead of responding to our original questions, it seems that you and Rigpa are engaging in a massive public relations effort to deflect attention from your actions. First you replied to our letter by saying that you were very sorry for our having misunderstood your intentions. You did not deny your actions but deflected blame by implying it was due to our own ignorance.  Rigpa has continued in this vein by promoting Orgyen Topgyal’s comments made in Lerab Ling, Rigpa Paris, and online that our attestations of your behavior guaranteed that we were samaya breakers and bound for the hell realms. Rigpa also released on September 23, 2017 the video of Khenpo Namdrol telling the gathering at Lerab Ling that the eight of us are agents of demonic forces, accused us of the heinous crime of causing schism in the sangha, which is morally equivalent to killing one’s parents, killing an arhat, or drawing the blood of a Buddha.
Then, on December 19, 2017 we received a packet of communication from Rigpa US, Rigpa UK, Rigpa’s law firm Lewis Silkin, and An Olive Branch, requesting our participation in an investigation into the veracity of our attestations, and to respond within 10 days (over the Christmas holiday). In our original letter to you, which is a matter between a teacher and students, we did not include our views on Rigpa, nor on the enablers who supported your abusive behavior. In fact, we took responsibility and apologized in our letter for our own support of you and how it may have harmed others. Our intention with the letter was solely focused on the issue of your behavior that harmed others. We did not expect, nor need any communication from Rigpa or their lawyers because you can speak for yourself.
Three days after we received the packet of communication, Rigpa announced publicly to the greater Rigpa Sangha that we would participate in the so-called investigation and speak to Rigpa’s lawyers. We were neither consulted as to whether we wished to participate with Rigpa’s law firm, nor did we give our consent to said participation. This suggested to us that Rigpa was not intent on truly listening, but instead, managing their public image and in fact saving themselves from scrutiny by legal authorities. Despite all of that, some of us still considered speaking to Rigpa’s lawyers with a hope that it might bring about some kind of healing for Sangha members.
Then, on January 2, 2018 you and Rigpa announced the establishment of a Vision Board to guide Rigpa’s future activity. You said that Orgyen Topgyal guided the decision making, and that Khenpo Namdrol was named as a principal advisor. Relying upon Orgyen Topgyal and Khenpo Namdrol,  following their defamatory remarks about the eight of us, indicates what you and Rigpa think about our motivation and character and the content of the July 14th letter.
Our July 14, 2017 letter stands as an attestation to your sexual, mental, and physical abuse of students and misuse of donations for the Dharma.
We regret that neither you, nor Rigpa’s leaders, have acknowledged the abuse and trauma that you have caused, so that deep healing can begin. We hope that you and Rigpa will reconsider your approach and be truthful and act in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings.
In the spirit of transparency and to avoid confusion and misinformation, we will share this letter with various people who have expressed an interest regarding these matters. Regarding our communication with Rigpa, Lewis Silkin, and An Olive Branch, they will be receiving a letter shortly.
We deeply regret the necessity of our letters. We, like so many others, have seen greatness in you. We pray that you can live up to the level of integrity of which we know you are capable. Please take responsibility for your actions and begin the path to healing. Please seek the counsel of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and mend this stain on your reputation that is causing so many to lose faith in you, the lineage, and the noble Dharma.
We were sad to hear of your ill health and hope you recover completely so that you can fully enter your retreat.
Signed,
Michael Condon
Gary Goldman
Matteo Pistono
Graham Price
Sangye
Joanne Standlee
Mark Standlee


Note that an Olive Branch has not reached out to any of the 8 as yet.

Latest News from Rigpa: How the future looks

Two pieces of news just came out.

Vision Board Announcement

Rigpa has announced it’s Vision Board: Valerie Baker, Mauro
de March, Seth Dye, Patrick Gaffney, Verena Pfeiffer, Philip Philippou and Vinciane Rycroft. These are all long term students, many of whom likely experienced and/or observed the kind of behaviour the 8 attested to in their letter, and some who have actively helped to cover up this kind of behaviour for decades. Instead of their resignation in acceptance of their role in faciliating a culture of abuse, they have been enshrined as leaders of the community.
This Vision Board will be guided by  Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, (who said that once a student had received the pointing out nature of mind instructions “from the Vajrayana point of view, there is nothing wrong with Sogyal Rinpoche’s subsequent actions”) as well as Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, and Khenchen Namdrol.  The latter is the lama who on the 17th sept 2017 at Lerab Ling suggested that the 8 students had been possessed by demons by saying their letter was “the magical play of non-human entities more than the humans that we are pinning it on” and started the lie that these entities were “Trying to destroy the doctrine. In general Buddhism, in particular Nyingmapa and especially the Rigpa sangha.”  Since that is not the motivation of the 8 letter writers, this man is the source of this lie and responsible for an increase in the malignment of those who had the courage to warn others about what was happening at the core of this organisation.
The communication also said that Sogyal “Rinpoche would continue to teach his students”, and “We all pray that once Rinpoche has recovered and regained his strength, he may continue to teach his students as much as possible.”
And so it appears that nothing has changed. In fact the communication makes it look as if no one ever spoke out about the unethical behaviour at the core of this organisation. This handing over to a team of students is, apparently, all part of SR’s plan and bears no relation to external events. It’s a fine example of gaslighting, of manupulating the devoted into believing that there is no problem. Did the Buddha teach denial of reality? Did he teach that we should cling to beliefs and resist change? Did he teach that honesty, integrity and ethical behaviour were not important? No, he did not.
He taught that impermanence is the nature of reality and that freedom from suffering comes from letting go of attachment, aversion and ignoring what is true. And he taught the importance of ethical behaviour as the basis of the spiritual path.
When Sogyal teaches again, how, I wonder, will he treat his students, these students who apparently see nothing wrong with abusive behaviour?

Legal action from Lerab Ling

http://www.liberation.fr/france/2018/01/02/les-bouddhistes-de-l-herault-de-la-quietude-a-l-inquietude_1620015
125 Lerab Ling members have instructed their lawyer, Jean-Robert Phung, to take action against Jean-Baptiste Cesbron. M. Cesbron is a lawyer from Montpellier who has been collecting testimonies from Ripga and ex-Rigpa students. The 125 Rigpa Lerab Ling members have accused him of defamation for things he said in the the regional daily Midi Libre.
How is this the behaviour of Buddhists? How does it fit with the Mahayana lojong teachings we all learned? Is this right use of money? Spending on lawyers? Is this what ordinary sangha members want?

You might be able to help

If the idea of a man collecting testimonies of abuse being sued by a bunch of Buddhists for saying publically what he discovered appalls you and you saw or experienced abuse at Lerab Ling, especially if it was in the last 5 years, you might be able to help Jean-Baptiste Cesbron in defending the charge of slander.
He is also the one who will assemble the testimony for submission to the Procureur de Montpellier. The sooner he gets information the better.
His email address: jean-baptiste.cesbron@avocat-conseil.fr
Please note: your email can be in English or French, that’s not a problem. Please share this information as widely as you can.
Also don’t forget that the UK Charity Commission is also collecting testimonies. For anyone who wants to send details of their personal experience, or any information they think might be useful, please use the following contact: FAO David Hughes-Jones / Rigpa Fellowship(279315). Email: rccorres1@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk

But let’s not forget

Before we respond with scorn to behaviour that we may see as not helpful to the long-term benefit of either the students or the dharma, let’s remember that these are just ordinary people struggling with a situation they find incredibly difficult to handle. We expect them to act in a more enlightened fashion because of their Buddhist study and practice, but they are not enlightened, rather they have been indoctrinated for decades to believe that whatever Sogyal does is perfect and that they must remain true to their beliefs about his being a mahaasiddha and silent about his behaviour or they will rot in the worst of hells. They are trapped by their beliefs. Just as we can be trapped by ours if we do not see them for what they are – mere beliefs about reality, not reality itself.
From their perspective they are protecting a way of life. If Lerab Ling and Rigpa fails they will have to find a new way to survive. They know the truth of the letter by the 8; they know that revealing that truth was not a ‘press campaign’ but a message to the sangha; they know their data base was not hacked, since several members of the 8 had legitimate access to it, and they know that they are lying to say it was hacked and to call speaking out a ‘press campaign’ – unless they have repeated the lies so often that they now bellieve them to be truth.  How sad that their path is so fragile that they can throw it out the window to protect a way of life.
Let’s not do the same thing. Let’s live as blameless a life as possible, with as much integrity as we can muster. The truth of the teachings about interdependence, compassion, and love are what brought many of us to the path and what will keep us on the path is to embrace those teachings with all our heart. Let’s show compassion, not scorn, for friends caught in delusion. They don’t want to be going through this any more than any of us do, and they are dealing with it the best they can, just as we are. Let’s send them our best wishes that the cloud of delusion lifts very soon for their sake.
“They who cover themselves with their own corrupt conduct,
Like a creeper covers a tree,
Do to themsleves
What an emeny wishes for them.
“It is easy to do what is not good
And things that harm oneself.
It is very difficult to do
Things beneficial and good.”
The Buddha. Dhammapada, v 162 – 163. Gil Fronsdal translation.

 


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
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. 
Please consider sponsoring our editor for the many hours of work involved in keeping this blog running and the information up to date.

Investigation Details Released

Merry Christmas!

On the 22nd December Rigpa International Investigation & Reconciliation Committee sent the long-awaited communication to the sangha about the investigation along with two attachments, one from An Olive Branch and the second an agreement with Lewis Silken lawyers. I mentioned the announcement of Rigpa US engaging An Olive Branch in a previous post, now let’s look at the rest of the letter.

A shift?

My first impression was that the letter included points that could indicate a shift in attitude.
In mention of where their concern lies, the authors of the letter are specifically included in the community as a whole, and saying “we are all still very much connected to each other” indicates a breaking down of the ‘us and them mentality’. An Olive Branch’s involvement is certainly a shift, and proof of their commitment to true healing and reconciliation would be inviting all those who have left to the An Olive Branch sessions.
I found this part encouraging, “It has become clear that we need to work together to understand how, over the years, we got to where we are.” This kind of examination is what I’ve been asking for. Only action will show how deeply this will go, but least the intention is now there to actually examine.
The Rigpa US board appeared to have a shift after meeting with one of the US authors of the letter at the Ventura retreat. They also sent a letter to the 8 authors in which they presented the details of the investigation and asked them to participate. In this letter they mentioned regretting not reaching out sooner and admitted that their confusion about what to do had obscured their ability to genuinely help. They also made further admissions that I don’t feel at liberty to mention here that were a major step forward and indicated a new honesty in communication.

Or not?

However, they have not made these admissions public, and the communication to the worldwide sangha from the Rigpa International Investigation & Reconciliation Committee had no such admissions and lacked the honesty and compassion evident in the US letter. It came out one day after the 8 received details of the investigation, giving them no time to respond before it was made public, and it gave no indication that their participation was voluntary, thus colouring the sangha’s perception of the situation and subtly coercing the 8 into complying. This along with the fact that they were never consulted about the planned investigation, were given only 10 days to make a decision, and it all happened at the busiest time of year gives this initiative the feeling of “compelled disclosure”.
University of Oregon trauma psychologist Jennifer Freyd, a pioneer in the fields of “institutional betrayal” presents, with good evidence, that victims are further harmed when the institutions that betrayed them play a leading role in any “fact-finding” or reconciliation process. Such a process, she suggests, continues the power imbalance, recast as healing.
http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/jjf/disclosure/requiredreporting.html
Though Rigpa international is not the client in the investigation (Rigpa UK and US are), they were responsible for booking it without consultation with the 8 authors and presumably had a say in setting up the terms and scope of the investigation.
The language in the newsletter goes from invitation:
“We are offering the eight letter writers the opportunity for a compassionate forum to share their observations and experiences in an unbiased and confidential interview.”
to coercion:
“The scope of the investigation is international and will include all eight complainants.”
The assertion that the 8 will participate the day after they were introduced to the idea is an extension of the consent violations upon which the culture of abuse was built.
The continued use of the word ‘allegations’ is significant also for those harmed. It is used when an accused is denying wrongdoing because it has not been proven to be true, and yet those who have set up this investigation are implicated in covering up the actions and KNOW THEM TO BE TRUE. They have never denied them and have even been so audacious as to hide behind statements characterizing them as beneficial, blessings and training rather than various forms of abuse of power. Stating that they need to gain a full understanding of what has happened and who was involved or aware of it is an insult to those harmed.
Thus, once again, the way this has been handled by Rigpa international could be a cause of re-traumatisation.
The language in the letter of introduction from the lawyer to the 8 was not like this, nor was the letter from the US Board that they received. The lawyer clearly understands that the process might be traumatic for the 8 and gives personal assurances of her integrity, and the US Board letter acknowledges that the investigation might raise doubts and be uncomfortable, and both asked rather than assumed participation. However, the Rigpa International newsletter to the sangha exhibits the same behaviour that we have continuously called out and continues to cause divisiveness, lack of trust, fear, and unwillingness to participate in any forum of “healing”. Without honesty and admission from those who know the attestations are true, their words will continue to be met with suspicion.
This difference between Rigpa US’s communication to the 8 authors and the International letter to the sangha reminds us that ‘Rigpa’ is not one thing, but many people with many different views, and the national boards and individuals do not necessarily feel the same way as Rigpa International. If International and other national boards took the same honesty and compassion as showed by the US board in their recent communication to the 8 authors and made those admissions public, real change might still be possible.

Assurances

The communications give many assurances about the investigation, and students are given an email address, a new one, so we can ask questions about the investigation. The letter to the 8 from the lawyer makes it clear that she will only act in an objective and impartial manner with due respect and sensitivity, mentioning how important this is for her own personal and professional integrity, and there appear to be adequate safeguards to assuage concerns regarding legal and confidential matters.

The report

The letter to the sangha from Rigpa International says: “The outcome and recommendations of the report will be shared, in a manner to be determined, with the Boards of all Rigpa organizations worldwide.” The letter to the 8 from the US Board, however, says that the report will also be shared with the 8. So which are we to believe, the private letter or the public one? Neither letter says they will share it with sangha or the public.
Here’s the kind of report we can expect. This is a link to the Lewis Silken report on the Kevin Spacey case for the Old Vic Theatre https://cdn.oldvictheatre.com/uploads/2017/11/THE-OLD-VIC-PRESS-STATEMENT-FINAL-16.11.17.pdf
As you can see it is pretty light weight and non-conclusive and Rigpa could ignore the recommendations if they wish. Is this going to actually help in achieving the overall goal of “restoring peace and harmony”? These lawyers cost a great deal of sangha members’ money, money that could be better spent elsewhere.

A concern

On the surface the letter to the sangha and the terms of the investigation seem all very reasonable, and granted to not investigate may be damaging to Rigpa in regard to maintaining their charity status in some countries, but we need to be clear that this is only an investigation “to ascertain in more detail the specific allegations.” It is not an investigation of Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour or of the organisation that supports him, only a mission to get more detail on the allegations. But the letter from the 8 is quite clear. What more is there for them to add?
The Lewis Silken agreement sent to the sangha says that people other than the 8 such as senior management will only be interviewed if the lawyers “deem it appropriate” and if it is “achievable within the fee budget”. There is no mention of Sogyal being interviewed at all. This seems to be a gross oversight.
Lewis Silken found in their investigation of the Kevin Spacy case for the Old Vic: “It has also not been possible to verify any of these allegations, and it is important to note that Kevin Spacey has not commented on them. The review cannot therefore make any findings of fact about the alleged misconduct.”
Without interviewing others apart from the 8, because only one point of view is being heard, it is not possible to verify anything and so impossible to make any findings of fact. An outcome such as this is not guaranteed, because they may interview management, but the actual terms of the investigation as stated in the agreement appear somewhat skewed towards finding no ‘proof’.
The letter of introduction to the 8 from the lawyer, however, says that is likely that the investigation will move on to interview other members of Rigpa and even Sogyal Lakar, so which is correct? Rather than reassure, this discrepancy only creates more confusion and distrust.

The assumption

The huge assumption is that the 8 will participate in this compelled disclosure, but why should they?


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
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. 
Please consider sponsoring our editor for the many hours of work involved in keeping this blog running and the information up to date.

How Words can be used to Manipulate Your Perception

I expect that some of you will not want to consider the possiblity that Rigpa students’ perceptions may be being subtley manipulated, either consciously or unconsciously, by selective use of language. However, whether it’s true or not, I think it would be wise for you to read this guest post, anyway, since it doesn’t hurt for you to be aware of how it can happen.  Only when you are aware of the possibility can you be sure that you are free to make up your own mind up rather than think the way someone else wants you to think.
 

The non-apology

In comments to the last blog post, someone said that they felt that Sogyal had apologised, however if you look carefully at the letter he sent to the 8 students (see the it here) the language does not actually give an apology, it only appears to. He says,” I acknowledge that there are feelings of hurt,” and, “hurt has arisen.” He does not acknowledge that he hurt the students or even that the students were hurt, just that they “feel” hurt and that “hurt has arisen.”
He defends himself by saying, “it was never, ever, my intention to hurt you or any other person, and if this is how it appears, then I am deeply shocked.”  Though this is no doubt how he felt,  the words “how it appears” suggests that events are not necessarily as they see them, and this subtly undermines the reader’s perception, making them think that it is all in the letter writer’s minds. No wonder this, “it’s just your perception,” idea is bandied about by his ‘true-believer’ students in their defence of him.
He virtually says that he has nothing to apologise for. “My conscience is clear on this.” Though he refers to his belief that “I have never, not for one moment, had any intention other than a genuine wish to benefit others,” the statement that his conscience is clear was completely unecessary and it’s inclusion leaves the suggestion in the minds of the unwary reader that he is innocent.
He does, however, “humbly ask your forgiveness,” which might sound to some like a kind of apology, but it doesn’t say, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you.” when put in context  it actually refers to the actions that “have been perceived in another way” and “the distress this causes me.”
This is the kind of gaslighting that Rigpa is very good at and continues with every communication, subtling altering student’s perception to minimise the damage.

Another way of reading that letter

This parody of Sogyal’s reply to the 8 letter writers was written by one of the recipients as “part of a process of coming to a more compassionate space.”  It shows how once the bubble of believing everything you’re told and taking everything at face value has burst through honoring the truth of your own feelings and experience things can look very different indeed. The sentiments expressed in this parody may asome to stomach, but others will have no difficulty seeing this kind of motivation behind not only Sogyal’s letter of reply but all of Rigpa’s handling of the situation.


Dear Mark, Sangye, Damcho, Joanne, Matteo, Graham, Michael and Gary
I have received your letter and have read it through very thoroughly and I am deeply saddened and shocked that my carefully crafted culture of silence and suppression of the truth has been exposed.
Why I am responding to this letter at all is that it is apparent that you have the means to “bring everything down” which causes me great distress.
Even though it is almost impossible for me to take responsibility for my actions and I even question whether I am actually responsible at all, my most ablest students have informed me that it is in my best interests to appear to.
The critical mass of evidence against me and the karmic effects of my actions have finally caught up with me and exposed me and I find that I am reluctantly forced to respond.
Victor Hugo stated it best:
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
I will try to kick the ball down the road for a few more years until we can emerge chastened and reformed but where I can still keep my castle and court.
Please accommodate any apparent outreach to this effect as it would benefit me greatly.
Sincerely,
Sogyal
(Parody included with permission. Author’s name withheld for privacy)

How word choice can manipulate your perception

The following words in italics are from the Lerab Ling website as their official statement on the letter from the 8. 
“There is no place for abuse in our community.” Makes you think there is no abuse, but the truth is that they don’t recognise abuse as abuse. I wonder what they think constitues abuse?
Press campaign.” This is complete misinformation. The letter was never intended as a press campaign. And even now there is no press campaign that we know of. The story has got into the press, but that is not a ‘campaign’. A campaign suggests some organised assault on someone, and giving the attestations of abuse an offhand term like ‘press campaign’ diminishes it  and makes it easy to disregard as ‘just a press campaign’ by some disgruntled students. It is not a press campaign; it is genuine testimonies detailing abuse and a request for real reform.
“… in a way that is entirely consistent with Buddhist values.” Makes you think they are behaving in a way consistent with Buddhist values even though the facts suggest otherwise.  False speech, for example, is one of the ten negative actions to avoid. Nevertheless, use of the adverb ‘entirely’ give great emphasis to this point of being consistent with Buddhist values. In an organisation accused of behaving in a way that is not consistent with Buddhist values, this statement is clearly a way to gaslight people into believing it simply can’t be true.
“… in a true spirit of collaboration.”  The word ‘true’ is not necessary for the meaning to be clear, so why is it there?  Only to suggest that there is truth here and that they are actually concerned about truth.

Adverbs and Adjectives

Adverbs (words that describe verbs such as ‘entirely’ as used above) and adjectives (words that describe nouns such as ‘true’ as used above) are never needed in communications designed to give information. They are only used to add an angle on the information and consistent use of adverbs and adjectives with a particular angle encourage that interpretation in the reader. For instance in Rigpa international’s first letter to the sangha they say in regards to S’s letter, “his poignant response.”
Advertising uses such words, of course,  but Rigpa doesn’t just use them when advertising courses and retreats. We hear them from the instructors once we’re there, and we keep hearing them over and over. We also hear them a great deal in the “feedbacks” read out at retreat, and we see them in the comments on Sogyal Rinpoche’s Facebook pages as well, almost as though the students are brainwashed with these words.

Words to lure you in & make you think its the real deal

These are the kinds of words that hook our grasping for the ‘best’ and stimulate our spiritual materialism. They keep us coming to retreat after retreat, along with other things like having to write a personal letter to Sogyal to explain why we can’t come:
High, very special, profound, transformative, dzogchen, restricted, eminent, only chance, genuine, authentic, precious, powerful tools of Tibetan Buddhism, what promises to be a very special retreat.

Feel-good buzz words

These are the soothing words that make us feel as if we belong to something special and as if people truly care for us:
Personally reassure, open process, careful attention, positive intention,  benefit,  precious time,  spiritual, care, support, vast, vision, blessed, skilful, sensitively, beautiful, heart warming,  inspiring, deep, outstanding, perfect, special, especially for us.
Such words are commonly used in sentences such as this: The sangha is in a deep process of transformation. It has been wonderfully inspiring to see how our communication has deepened. People have shared in an amazing atmosphere of openness. It is great to see we are all in this process together so we can keep receiving these precious teachings.
Here’s an example from a Lerab Ling newsletter from this year: “Lerab Ling is so warm and cosy around this time of the year. We will be offering amazing events led by the next generation of Buddhist teachers, as well as by specialists sharing deep insights on topics like compassion.”
 

Words & concepts that can be used to control & silence

These words and concepts are not designed to be used for control, subjugation and silencing, they are valid ideas, but they can be, and most certainly have been, used in this way. The important thing to consider here is whether or not they are being used in a way that will benefit the student or the teacher, the student or the organisation.
Committment, devotion, faith, dedicated, unity, determination, strengthening Rigpa, perception, samaya, karma, death, hell, sangha, pure perception, special dakini, fast path, accelerated spiritual development, training, exposing hidden faults. 

Is it really manipulation?

The use of the phrase “press campaign” is clearly manipulative as are the other words I highlighted in the Lerab Ling statement on the letter, but, in general, the use of these words doesn’t necessarily mean that what they say isn’t true in any individual situation. The issue is that their continual emphasis gives us a feeling of belonging to something special, something that simply cannot be ‘bad’ or even have a ‘bad’ side.  For so long as the organisation and its teacher appear to be ‘good’, these words are quite innocuous, but once it becomes clear that things are not so wonderful, the continued use of words that make it seem wonderful take on the feeling of brainwashing. Tell people often enough that everything is all right and they’ll believe it, especially if they are people conditioned not to question or doubt.
Those writing advertising copy will know that they are trying to make the retreat sound good so that people will come, and we cannot expect them to do otherwise, but I expect that the ordinary person simply believes it all. When I, as an instructor, spouted the same words, I didn’t think I was being manipulative; I thought it was all true – until I found out that the teacher was not who I thought he was.  In the light of the big lie finally being exposed it would be wise of us to not take anything from this organisation at face value. We all know they have to keep the money rolling in. There is a great deal of reason for Rigpa management in all countries to continue to supress or downplay the truth.
The post raises the question of why would you feel the need to pretend that there is nothing wrong, that everything has been done perfectly, when clearly to any normal Westerner looking at this situation, it hasn’t? Why pretend? Why ignore? Why not examine, define, analyse, visualise, doubt, debate use all of those wonderful critical thinking skills Westerners have? That’s what this post is about – questioning the truth of everything we believed to be true. It’s a very healthy thing to do.
And just when the Rigpa communications are looking most reasonable, ask yourself if there is anything they are ignoring completely. Like the elephant in the closet, or the fact that they haven’t simply answered the questions raised by the 8 letter writers.


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
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. 
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Watch out for sweet words with hidden barbs.

On the 29th of October, Rigpa management sent out an email to the Rigpa sangha. Titled Sangha Connection, it began with a quote from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. “…In the midst of clouds of impermanence and illusion, dances the lightning of life. Can you say you won’t die tomorrow? Practice the Dharma.”
Lovely quote, but unfortunately it’s one that reminds me of how terribly Rigpa is doing on the score of practising the dharma. Many may be still doing their many sadhanas, but one wonders what they are actually doing when they practice. The results of genuine dharma practice is that we become more compassionate, more kind, freer of defensiveness, negative emotions, hope and fear and so on, and yet as an organisation we see Rigpa focused entirely on defending themselves and maintaining their business interests. This is the bad news: they still show no indication of applying the four healing powers of Vajrasattva to actually heal the situation.
As Chatrul Rinpoche said: “The authentic Dharma is not in the monasteries, it is not in the books and not in the material world, but within the mind. There is a need to awaken it through practice and to realise (actualise) it, in order to be called the continuation or preservation of the Dharma.”

Tone

Despite the chatty, (or for some perhaps insultingly jubilant) tone, the lack of compassion still shines through. Still there is nothing in the communication to indicate that management has taken any responsibility for their lack of care of students in the past and in the present. An organisation that cares more about keeping the money rolling in than facing their mistakes and caring for those that have been harmed while working for the organisation is hardly practicing dharma, no matter how many mantras they accumulate.
The communication seems to be designed to sooth readers into complacency by talking about lineage and higher purpose. The subtext is, “Look how wonderful we are; look how much we’ve done; look what new initiatives we’re undertaking; aren’t we grand? Aren’t we worth supporting?” All this communication does is entrench themselves into the position they’ve taken all along – minimise the damage in whatever way you can, make it look like you’re doing something to distract people from the fact that nothing is ever going to change, carry on as usual and wait for it all to blow over. Will it blow over? Or are people sick enough of these kinds of debacles in Buddhism to make sure that the talk will not stop until the issues are properly addressed once and for all.

Teachers announced

They list the names of Lamas that have agreed to teach for Rigpa. Do these lamas realise that in Western eyes this indicates their support for a lama accused of abuse and for an organisation that allowed unethical behaviour to flourish in the name of dharma? These teachers need to make some statement about where they stand on the issue of abuse of power in Tibetan Buddhism if they are to retain any integrity in the eyes of Westerners. Sadly, the list includes reputable and excellent teachers: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongrul Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, OT Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and Khenchen Pema Sherab. Notably absent are Mingyur Rinpoche and His Holiness the Dalia Lama. I’m left hoping that at least some of them will actually address the issue, rather than continue as if it doesn’t exist.

Investigation

Only two lines are given to the upcoming investigation, and they tell us only that “the independent consultants carrying out the internal investigation will be announced shortly, with the aim of commencing in November. The investigation will compassionately and thoroughly investigate the allegations of abuse that were made against Sogyal Rinpoche and take into account first-hand experiences gained through confidential interviews.” Nothing new there. Another stalling tactic that contributes to a terrible feeling I have that this investigation might be just another cover up. Any investigation where the bill is being paid by Rigpa has to be suspect. Only a police investigation would really be reliable.

Code of conduct

We’re told that the code of conduct will be ready by the end of the year and that they are encouraging everyone to participate in the workshops in order to have their say. The trouble with the workshops is that the discussion is highly restricted. Even when run well, they are very limited in scope. Students are confined to talking only about set topics, and then only about what they themselves have experienced, so they can’t raise the issue of what happened to someone else, or what was reported in the letter from the 8. Many students have reported that during all the sessions designed to provide points for cultural change, the word abuse was never mentioned and would not have been discussed at all had the student not raised it. Others reported that their questions were not answered or they were asked to speak privately about their concerns. So though the workshops have the appearance of openness and listening, their scope is very limited and seems designed more to sooth the students, to make them feel good about the situation than to actually address the problem. It’s as if there is a huge unhouse-trained elephant in the closet that everyone is ignoring despite the stink that taints everything.
The root of the problem – the beliefs that ask students to set aside their discernment and ethical values – are not being discussed. I suspect that those people running the workshops with the best of intentions do not realise that these are cult tactics, designed to keep everyone happy and paying their fees. These workshops are not dealing with the problem, they are carefully avoiding it.

Social media

The communication responds to requests by students that there be a place for online communication amongst the whole sangha, and rather than make a new group, which will be of great relief to some, the suggestion is that the All Encompassing Path Facebook Group is the place for such coming together. Will we see a truely open communication happening there? Only time will tell. I expect that many of those within Rigpa are sick of talking about it. It seems that the general focus is to get on with their own path to enlightement, ignoring the fact that unexamined and unquestioned aspects of that path has caused harm to some students.

Developments in Rigpa

Lodyi Gyari Rinpoche and Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche are mentioned as lamas that have been consulted on the matter of putting in place the new spiritual body. If you have been paying attention to what OT has said on this matter you can see what a disaster his involvement is for the future of Tibetan Buddhism in the West – or at least for any healthy future for its students. He’s the one that told the Rigpa sangha in Paris that there was no problem, that Sogyal had done nothing wrong, that the 8 were samaya breakers (how can he tell; he’s not in their minds?) that if a great being kills someone it’s not a problem, and suggested that dharma law is higher than worldly law. Just the sort of person you want running a dharma organisation, right? (Sarcasm!)
Rigpa senior instructors will lead the programmes at the national retreats and “The great news is that these retreats will include specially recorded teachings from Sogyal Rinpoche.”  I thought he had retired from teaching! But then his devoted students will be very pleased about this.  Also some of these students leading the retreats are likely burying trauma, still in denial about the nature of their treatment at the hands of their teacher. Hardly psychologically healthy role models. If I sound somewhat scathing, it is only in order to point out just how unhealthy the institutional denial of the attested abuse is. Some members of the What Now? group have expressed great concern for the mental health of many still involved in the organisation at its upper levels. Rigpa needs to look very seriously at this.
If anyone is reading this who is unsure of whether or not they have been abused, or who needs assistance to remove themselves from service to Sogyal or Rigpa, please refer to our healing resources page, and feel free to contact us privately via our contact page.
The letter mentions Sogyal’s health but gives no further information than that he is undertaking chemotherapy. We are also informed that Rigpa aims to have closer ties with Lerab Gar in Tibet.

To make Rigpa look good?

The communication announces that “where public courses have recommenced after the summer, instructors have informed new people about the controversy and difficulties Rigpa is currently facing so they can make an informed choice whether they want to continue. This openness has been well received.”
Why was this included? It’s basically saying, “Look how open we are.” But are these students given the link to this blog, to Mingyur Rinpoche’s article, to DZK’s article where he questions S’s qualifications? When existing students aren’t given links to these resources it seems highly unlikely that new students would be given the full picture either. Do they hand out copies of the letter written by the Eight attesting to the abuse?

Twisting words in an attempt to discredit the Eight?

Apparently many students had asked if anyone had “reached out to the long-standing students who wrote the initial letter of grievances to Sogyal Rinpoche.” Instead of saying that no one from Rigpa management has made any attempt to reach out to them, they divert attention from this fact by mentioning S’s group email to the Eight in response to their letter, and they share it to the sangha as an attachment. As their reasoning for sharing S’s reply now the communication states: “The eight students made the reply from Rinpoche public by emailing it to many other people.”
This is not strictly true; that letter is not public. Search for it right now and you will not find it posted on line anywhere.
It was sent openly along with the Eight’s response to S’s letter to the monastics, national directors and international management of Rigpa, not as a Bcc email. Since none of the Eight had heard from Rigpa management they assumed that they knew nothing about this communication and so shared it in the interests of transparency. That openness has been turned against them in this communication by the use of the word ‘public’, which insinuates not only that it was posted publically somewhere, but that sharing the email to Rigpa management was somehow reprehensible. This sentence is entirely unnecessary. It appears that the reason for including it is an attempt to discredit the Eight. Why else is it there?
On the 15th of September the letter did appear on the secret Facebook group, but that is also not public, and as one of the 8 said, “we didn’t agree to let it be posted in the group until the rumors of how we were all being well cared for by S personally became wide spread, then we agreed to post it to set the record straight.”
However, all of this diverts attention from the fact that those running Rigpa, those who failed in their duty of care, have still not reached out.
It is, in fact, Rigpa management who have made S’s letter public by sharing it with the whole sangha.
Watch out Rigpa students; sweet words can have hidden barbs.
P.S. Just to make it completely clear and in an attempt to stop the misinformation circulating within Rigpa, the Eight DID NOT post the original letter outlining the abuse they experienced on the internet or share it on social media. Since the letter went to all Dzogchen mandala students and many of them shared it with other students and likely ex-students, any one of them could have leaked it, but the intention of the Eight was for it to be kept within the sangha.
 


Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting personal and private support in regards to the abuse issue can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite using the email address you use on Facebook
If you would like to stay in contact with and support ex-Rigpa students, we have created the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  The group files include lists of online courses with reputable teachers, and members can join monthly Skype meetings and retreats. If you’re interested, click the link and ask to join. You will need to answer some questions before being admitted to the group.
Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for 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’ in general could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. Links to posts on this blog will be posted there as well as links to other relevant information related to the wider issues involved.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ongoing Support for ex-Rigpa Students

 
This blog has always been backed up by a Secret Facebook group where discussions on the topic of abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche and issues in Rigpa that supported it can be had in a private supportive space, but at some point most people have processed the issues and want to move on with their spiritual path.
So for students who have left Rigpa and don’t want to talk about it anymore, but would like to stay in contact with other ex-Rigpa students, we have created the Dharma Companions Facebook Group. The group aims to support students no matter where their path takes them. We share info and compile lists of online courses with reputable teachers and we share what is happening for us. The result is often inspiring and always heart-warming. If you’re interested, click the link and ask to join. You will need to answer some questions before being admitted to the group.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Tibetan Buddhism clean’ in general could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. Links to posts on this blog will be posted there as well as links to other relevant information related to the wider issues involved.


Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for 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.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.
 

Questions for Rigpa on the Investigation.

One of the excellent things someone in Rigpa management did immediately after the letter came out was to set up an email address where students could send emails about their concerns. Even better was that for some time people actually got replies. Pleasant respectful replies but all with the same message, which essentially was to talk to someone in the sangha.
Unfortunately  a letter sent to one of the holding group requesting that we set up a liason between Rigpa International management and the What Now? group did not receive a reply. Nor has Patrick Gaffney replied to an email send a week or more ago requesting,  an opening of communication with What Now? But those in the What Now? group are very concerned that the soon to be commenced (or so we believe) investigation be conducted properly, and we wanted to have some input into that.
So, a representative of the What Now? Facebook group sent the following email to whoever reads what comes into the email address set up for student concerns.
Please note that this does not represent the feelings of all members of the group, just some of them. So read ‘we’ in this letter to refer to ‘some members of the group.’
Dear Rigpa Share
The ‘What Now’ group is much relieved that an independent investigation will  commence in the coming few weeks. In recent days we have asked members, what are their most pressing concerns about this pending investigation? There has been much feedback which we feel obliged to share before the investigation does commence.
In the lead up to this, Rigpa has indicated that any team leading the investigation would be comprised of several specialists with proven experience in this field, those being, people who have a background of investigating breaches of normal ethical codes in large religious or spiritual organisations. Prior to the actual start of the process, it would be best, in the interest of transparency, that some of our initial questions be answered.
Can Rigpa presently elaborate on the backgrounds and qualifications of this investigative team? And if not presently, when so?
Can Rigpa confirm if the organisation known as ‘An Olive Branch’ will be part of the investigative team?
Can Rigpa clarify the methods and procedures that will be applied in this investigation?
Can Rigpa clarify that despite Sogyal Rinpoche being on retreat, that he will be able to, and required to, answer any questions the team may have.
What measures will be taken to ensure no additional unnecessary suffering will be inflicted on those who already feel traumatised by actions against or involving them?
How does Rigpa intend to approach, protect and provided witnesses that are required to give testimony. How will assurances of fair treatment be provided?
Above all else, can Rigpa elaborate on the safety measures that have been taken to ensure that there remains a complete separation between the investigative body and a Rigpa management team, that has by circumstance, been involved in choosing the make up of, and directive’s of this body, while still knowing they themselves will also be investigated by that very same body for any possible wrong doing?
‘What Now’ group members have already highlighted many area’s, in specific detail, they would like to see covered in the investigation, however, there is little purpose in expressing these to Rigpa unless some clarity is first provided on the points we have just raised.
We trust that Rigpa understands the necessity for an ongoing dialogue in this process with ‘What Now’ members despite an understandable desire for things to be left unsaid until the completion of the investigation and publication of it’s findings.
It is, we believe, essential for Rigpa to acccept that any investigation that does proceed ‘without’ the support and input of ‘What Now’ members, would simply be a great waste of time and effort for all parties involved.
We look forward to your response with both anticipation and appreciation.
Update: A reply was received with the message that the letter would be forwarded to those organising the investigation for them to consider the points. Cheers!


Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for 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.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.

What Should be in Rigpa’s Next Communication

What they promised

The last communication from Rigpa international set out three initiaves in response to the attestations of abuse:

  1. An independent investigation of the allegations of abuse … [by] a neutral third party to fully respond to the concerns raised and to lay a foundation for restoring trust and confidence in the Rigpa community … fully international in scope and satisfy necessary requirements.
  2. An international consultation process to establish both a code of conduct and a grievance process for Rigpa … to develop codes and procedures that are appropriate for Rigpa.
  3. A new ‘spiritual body’ to guide and advise Rigpa.

 

The investigation

We want an update on how all their initiatives are progressing, and it needs to be in specific terms not general terms. What some members of What Now specifically want to know about the investigation is:

  1. Who are doing the investigation?
  2. What are their qualifications?
  3. Who chose the people undertaking the investigation? We hope it is not the old management, who, since they may be found complicit in the abuse, have a vested interest in a certain outcome.
  4. Are they truly neutral with no relationship to Rigpa and no investment in the outcome?
  5. What is the aim of the investigation?
  6. What are the terms and scope of the investigation?
  7. How will it be carried out?
  8. Will the process be completely transparent

We will post a more detailed look at what this investigation should be and how it should be carried out, either tomorrow or the next day.

Code of conduct and cultural change

We need an update on the process of developing the code of conduct and on the scope of the investigation into cultural change that we are aware is part of the process. In particular some members want to know:

  1. How far is the consultation process for the code of conduct and cultural change extending? Will they speak to the 8 letter writers? What about others who have left Rigpa in disgust, are they being included in the process?
  2. Have they consulted His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Mingyur Rinpoche, the two Lamas who have shown a modern understanding of the issue?
  3. Have they employed a professional specialist in cultural change within organisations to direct the process?
  4. An update on the development and implementation of a Rigpa complaint policy. Within the policy a requirement for management to regularly and publically report number, type of complaint and type of resolution.
  5. The big question is: How committed are they to true cultural change?
    If they are truly committed to the deep cultural change needed to establish Vajrayana as a realistic vehicle for Buddhism in the West, they need to show their commitment by addressing the cultic and abusive behaviour of some of their members that we outlined in a previous post.

    • We want the sangha provided with full information, which means sending them a link to the Reference Material page on this blog as that has links to all the relevant information that has so far not been shared within Rigpa.
    • Some attempt to make Rigpa’s finances transparent.

If they are to continue to show teachings/recordings/messages from SR then it is necessary for Rigpa International/management/spokespeople to address several public points that others have made. Namely:

  • Comment on HHDL’s recent statements on Sogyal Rinpoche OR announce that HHDL is not a Patron of Rigpa anymore.
  • Comment on the points DZKR made about SR’s qualifications as a vajra master, about how he warned, or failed to warn, students.
  • Address OT’s reasoning for the causes of SR’s health problems head-on. Does eating very rich food over many years lead to health problems, or is only ‘broken samaya’ a possible cause of health issues? If so, how exactly is what a student does cause such illness? This clarification would entail acknowledging that SR himself said he would not take the tests that were needed. Some student’s lives could be at stake if they believe that the causes of illness reside not in physical causes and conditions but purely spiritual ones.
  • Comment on the video of Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche recorded at Lerab Ling in which he said that demonic forces are at play, insinuated that they had taken over the students who spoke out about SR’s behaviour, and threatened them with hell: does Rigpa share that same view about the letter writers, or reject it? Though the video has been removed from You Tube, the damage has been done.

We understand that ‘Rigpa’ is not of one mind on these matters, but just as we state on our About page that the opinions expressed in the blog and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those who manage the blog, some similar statement could be made to indicate that these are not official views.
 

The ‘spiritual body’ to guide and advise.

  1. Who is on it?
  2. Who was invited? Who accepted and who declined? Did they ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche?
  3. What are their qualifications for being there?
  4. Is the ‘body’ balanced in views relating to this debacle or are they all fundamentalist Lamas like Orgyen Tobgyal?
  5. Rigpa students have already been told that two senior students will be on this body. The trouble is that these students by virtue of their position in the organisation must have enabled and have certainly covered up the abuse for decades, so how are they qualified to guide and advise anyone in spiritual matters when they have so clearly shown a lack of wisdom and compassion? Their being on the board is a farce unless they indicate through an apology that they have looked deeply and seen where they failed in their spiritual understanding and care.

And we want to see some true dharma, some compassion and wisdom

  1. We want an apology as the start of true spiritual healing. Senior management needs to apologise for their role in allowing and covering up the abuse, or they should resign. Even an apology limited by lawyers would go a long way towards restoring confidence and cutting through some of the cultic and abusive behaviours of members. It is also the first step in the healing practice of Vajrasattva. How can you heal anything without taking this first step? Did they learn nothing from their 100,000 recitations of Vajrasattva, or were they too busy filling Sogyal’s demands to actually do the practice? Not acting according to the four powers of purification (confession, regret, reparation and a vow not to repeat the negative action) indicates that the people running Rigpa have not understood the very dharma they have been teaching.
  2. We want to see some compassion for those who ‘felt’ harmed, some genuine human care and concern. This has been conspicuously missing from all communications so far. Perhaps some direction for students to practice Tonglen for all concerned especially for those who have been harmed, and a request that Vajrasattva practice to be undertaken with the aim of healing the rift sangha as well as all those harmed and, of course, Sogyal himself.
  3. A public statement of commitment to all for a zero tolerance of abuse, using the words ‘zero tolerance.’

Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for 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.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.

Is it true or is it just a rumour?

We have discovered that some rumours have been presented as fact in some Rigpa centres. We don’t know where the misinformation came from or if it is just a case of misunderstanding, but we feel that it is in everyone’s interest to stick with facts rather than hearsay and rumour, so here are some clarifications to hopefully circumvent some of the misinformation that has been circulating.
 

A few facts you should be aware of:

  • No single person wrote the email that exposed the abusive behaviour. It was a group effort made by all 8 students and worked on together over a period of time.One of the Eight said, “The eight of us spent many, many, days and hours carefully writing, suggesting edits, rewriting, discussing, rewriting, editing again, over and over and over until we felt it was done. It was a painful, exhausting process. The “response” we received from Sogyal Lakar was anticlimactic… we received an email that to my eyes appeared to have been carefully crafted by a lawyer, admitting to no wrong doing while vaguely “apologizing” for any “misunderstanding” that might have occurred. (Gary)Another said: “the letter was the result of many hours of collaborative effort and consensus. We worked diligently to make sure all our voices were heard, respected and included. We constantly checked our motivation and intent to be certain that we were on firm ground from an ethical point of view. This included not reporting anything that was not experienced personally and first hand.”  (Michael)
  • The Eight students did not scheme to discredit or overthrow SL and Rigpa. Their letter was sent only to SL himself, the Rigpa Dzogchen Mandala Students, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and some other lamas such as Mingyur Rinpoche and Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche. Had they wished to discredit or overthrow SL and Rigpa they would have sent the email to a mainstream newspaper, instead they purposefully kept it within the sangha, and carefully wrote only about things they had seen or experienced themselves. Later, someone unknown to them leaked the letter to a Buddhist magazine without their permission.
  • Any action or words of an individual who may be part of the group, does not represent the group as a whole.
  • Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar (SL) has not written individually to the Eight signers of the letter that exposed the abusive behaviour. On the 18th July, he sent an email addressed to all of them that, though it was emailed to each of them, was not an individual response. They all received the same email. He has not contacted any of them since.
  • No apology has been made by either SR or Rigpa, only an acknowledgement “that there are feelings of hurt”.
  • Rigpa management have not contacted any of the Eight either individually or as a group. The only conversation occurred when one member of the Eight contacted one senior student in Lerab Ling to clarify his status after being refused entry to a Dzogchen Mandala study group.
  • The seven of the Eight are not moderators of the What Now? group and blog. One of them is a moderator of the Facebook group only.
  • The What Now? moderators have a policy of only permitting first-hand accounts of behaviour in Rigpa or accounts given to them directly by the person who experienced the behaviour. We wish to avoid hearsay, gossip and rampant negativity.
  • The What Now? moderators also do not wish to ‘bring down’, ‘overthrow’ or ‘destroy’ Sogyal Rinpoche or Rigpa. We aim to educate students and help them process the situation, and we seek full transparency and positive change.
  • It is not a Chinese plot. The attestations are true accounts of what people have actually experienced; they are backed up by many other similar complaints over the years, and many others who have since shared their testimonies in the What Now? Facebook Group or privately to one or other of the moderators.
    One moderator counted 25 first hand accounts that she alone had received, and another student mentioned hearing many complaints in her time in Rigpa.

If in doubt as to the motivation of the Eight, re-read the original letter

Anyone who questions the intentions of the Eight should first ask themselves what could they possibly stand to gain from this and then re-read the original letter in which they state: “We write to you following the advice of the Dalai Lama, in which he has said that students of Tibetan Buddhist lamas are obliged to communicate their concerns about their teacher:

‘If one presents the teachings clearly, others benefit. But if someone is supposed to propagate the Dharma and their behavior is harmful, it is our responsibility to criticize this with a good motivation. This is constructive criticism, and you do not need to feel uncomfortable doing it. In “The Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattvas’ Vows,” it says that there is no fault in whatever action you engage in with pure motivation. Buddhist teachers who abuse sex, power, money, alcohol, or drugs, and who, when faced with legitimate complaints from their own students, do not correct their behavior, should be criticized openly and by name. This may embarrass them and cause them to regret and stop their abusive behavior. Exposing the negative allows space for the positive side to increase. When publicizing such misconduct, it should be made clear that such teachers have disregarded the Buddha’s advice. However, when making public the ethical misconduct of a Buddhist teacher, it is only fair to mention their good qualities as well.’ The Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India March 1993”

Then they go on to say that “A number of us have raised with you privately, our concerns about your behavior in recent years, but you have not changed.”
In line with His Holiness’s advice, the What Now? blog aims to walk the middle way of honouring the good SL has done, while being clear that ethical misconduct has occurred.
 

How do the authors of the letter feel about the situation now?

“Personally, I am both astounded and saddened at the frantic efforts by so many to discredit our efforts to bring light to the dark underbelly of Rigpa’s inner circle. Our original intent was to effect positive change in order to save Rigpa, but to date, the official response seems to be obfuscation and the maintaining of the status quo. The “unofficial” response has been an outpouring of personal stories from many, many members and former members of instances of wrong-doing and abusive behavior by the Rigpa hierarchy and Sogyal Lakar.” (Gary)
 
Another (Michael) said: I find it sad that not one person from an official position has ever contacted me to ask me about the letter or any support I may need as I am still a Rigpa member. I feel that there is a conscious effort not to clarify or investigate so as to keep things cloudy and gray. Most of this innuendo can be cleared up in seconds.”
 

Another angle on motivation and intention

In a recent post on her Facebook timeline about an article by Martha Beck on freeing your heart, one of the moderators of the What Now? Facebook group said, “This article really resonated with me. This is why I do what I do; I follow my heart. And I know the sense of clarity of which Martha speaks. The desire to make people aware of the full picture in the Rigpa debacle comes directly from my heart.”
In the article Martha Beck says, “Our hearts are imprisoned for just one reason: The only language they can speak is truth. Unlike the mind, which can be persuaded to accept the most bizarre ideas (“Look, it’s the Hale-Bopp comet! Time to kill yourself!), your heart tells it like it is, without bothering to be tactful or socially appropriate. Free hearts rock boats, break rules, do things that disrupt the system—whether that system is a dysfunctional family, a bloated bureaucracy, or the whole wide world.”
“A heart is imprisoned not by being broken but by being silenced.”
Read the article here: http://marthabeck.com/2011/09/set-it-free/


BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE WHAT NOW? REFERENCES PAGE for 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.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in THE WHAT NOW? FACEBOOK GROUP. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
 

Commenting Guidelines and Moderation

Why we’re here

This is a place for discussion on the matter of abuse in the Rigpa sangha. We follow the guidance of the Dalai Lama on making such issues public while still honoring the good we have received from our teacher.
It is our sincere wish for the harm to stop and for those who enter Rigpa to be aware of what they might encounter within that organisation. There is no intention to ruin Sogyal Rinpoche or Rigpa, only to hold him and the organisation accountable for any questionable actions. Although we oppose abuse, we still deeply appreciate all that we have received from Sogyal Rinpoche through his teachings, and we don’t deny that he is a brilliant teacher.
Posts are not intended to be scolarly, we are more interested in providing information and reflections that encourage deep reflection in students as they process the allegations of abuse in Rigpa and what it means for them.

Who we are

This blog has been set up by a group of past and present students of Sogyal Rinpoche. Moonfire is not one person, but many voices. We do not use our own names because some malign us for supporting those who spoke out about the abuse.
 

Commenting Guidelines & Moderation

This is a private blog, the owners have a right to maintain a positive atmosphere and remove people who don’t abide by the guidelines.
Please avoid:

  • harsh speech
  • personal criticism or attacks
  • aggression
  • sensationalism
  • inflammatory speech
  • spreading rumors
  • pushing an agendaThough we prefer not to have to moderate this conversation, individuals who engage in these forms of communication may have their comments removed without discussion – we don’t have time for arguments – and could be blocked from commenting on the blog.If you come across comments that don’t follow these guidelines, please use the comment form to let us know. In particular, attacks on Tibetan Buddhism are considered a breach of the guidelines. This is because, despite any limitations we see in any particular organization,  the majority of readers here have deep respect for Buddhism, and we wish to honour that point of view.  That does not mean that you can’t discuss its defects, but it does mean that in respect for the aim of this site which is to support Tibetan Buddhist practictioners, the positive aspects should be honoured as well as the negative. It’s all about tone; avoid agression and pushing an agenda.

We offer our support with the best of intentions. May you receive them in the same spirit.

Disclaimer

The opinons expressed on this blog and in the comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those who set up or administer the blog, therefore liability for opinons expressed falls on the person who expressed their opinion.


Be sure to check out the What Now? References page for 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.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.