Credit where credit is due

Folk wisdom is wisdom passed down through families sometimes from unknown sources; one such piece of wisdom I was brought up with was ‘Credit where credit is due’. This reminds us not to forget the good people have done or are trying to do, even if they have also behaved badly. So, with this bit of wisdom in mind, just in case those folk who are trying to forge ahead with Rigpa think that all we do on this blog is criticise, I thought it prudent to do a post that supports those people and initiatives that deserve it. While we wait for news on who is doing the investigation, what its scope, aims and jurisdiction are, let’s not forget that Rigpa has at least promised an investigation. It could have been worse. Only time will tell how meaningful the gesture will be. We also have a code of conduct being worked on and a new advisory body being chosen. Positive changes are happening inside the organisation. They aren’t moving fast enough or going deeply enough for some, but they are happening.

Expectation and disappointment

When our expectations are high, our disappointment and criticism can be correspondingly great, and in a situation with great potential for moving Tibetan Buddhism forward in a healthy way in the West, it’s no wonder that there is disappointment when those who really want to see that development feel that the change is not going deep enough. Criticism is helpful when it is constructive, and I hope the criticism of Rigpa management that we post here can be seen as constructive – sometimes it is hard to keep the tone moderate – but I can see that it may be quite disheartening if those doing their best to institute change, care for present students, and communicate with the wider community feel that their initiatives are being too rigorously criticised or disregarded. So in this blog I’d like to encourage them and honour them.

Keeping Communication Alive

I would like to personally acknowledge the few people within Rigpa who are actually communicating with me. Some I have emailed and they never responded, which I think is very sad, but I have a few people at national or international level who do still talk to me. We don’t talk much, but they do respond politely to my emails or messages, and if they ask questions, I answer. We respect each other’s views (and avoid going there) and I think we all understand that this situation is difficult for everyone. Their communication helps me to remember that there is no ‘they’, just ordinary people doing their best to help an organisation they believe in to survive a crisis. And I hope they understand that I am an ordinary person doing my best to care for those uncared for by Rigpa in the past and to provide a space where they and those outside the organisation can express their views and perhaps have an impact on the way events unfold. If you are reading this, thank you.
A previous post talked about the unskilful behaviour of some members of Rigpa, so I think it only prudent to remind everyone that those were generalisations and certainly did not apply to all members of Rigpa or Rigpa management. There really is no single thing that is Rigpa. It is made up of individuals. However, there is a team at the top that makes final decisions, so in the end, the buck does stop with them, and that’s why our critical pieces refer to Rigpa management, not Rigpa. Even within that group, however, we must remember that they may not be in agreement on certain things. Nouns are merely labels we must use in order to communicate.
Though still no one from Rigpa International management has approached any of the 8—not even just to see how they are—someone in the US management, entirely on his own behalf (not as part of any push from management), has communicated with four of the Eight letter signators in recent weeks. Never discount the actions of one person. Positive actions and kindness, no matter how small, can have enormously beneficial results. They spread like ripples in a pond.

Code of Conduct Workshops

Despite the workshops’ limited format, undoubtably there are some well-meaning and good hearted people doing their best to actually listen to people and collate their feedback into the code of conduct which is also supposed to bring in cultural change. These people are unpaid and giving huge amounts of their time to visit centres and give the sessions on what to keep and what to abandon in Rigpa. All credit to them and their commitment to the organisation.
One person working on the cultural change aspect of the code of conduct even agreed to take feedback from members of the What Now? Facebook group who had left Rigpa via Skype calls for small groups in Australia, USA and UK/Europe.  This person was open and caring enough to give her time to allow those who are most disenchanted with the whole situation to add their opinions to the process. Though not everyone was happy with the results, one member commented to me that if this person were running Rigpa, things really could change for the better. Unfortunately she is only one person, and she is not running Rigpa.
The point here, however, is that every Rigpa member who can show genuine openness and concern for others to the extent that they reach out with respect for others views (without trying to change them) changes the perception of those who might otherwise label ‘Rigpa’ in a poor light. Just as the poor behaviour of some reflects badly on ‘Rigpa’, so the positive behaviour of some reflects well and gives people hope that not all is lost.

Kudos to the German and Dutch sanghas

One initiative undertaken by both the German and Dutch sangha that merits a mention is the establishment of a drop box in which they placed articles and video’s and then sent a link to it to their whole sangha. Included in it are Mingyur Rinpoche’s article, two of HHDL video’s where he speaks of the Sogyal Rinpoche or Rigpa, as well as links to this blog and the How Did it Happen blog. DzKR’s Facebook post in response to the matter and the video in which Khenchen Namdrol speaks about samaya are also in it. Reports are that the included material is very balanced and not biased. Germany goes a step further in that they include letters and texts by individual Rigpa students who wanted their views and feelings shared with the whole sangha. These are indications that those running these sanghas are happy to allow students access to all relevant information and allow them to make up their own minds on the issues this scandal raises.
Unsurprisingly given these initiatives, feedback from students in these sanghas indicates that there is a more welcoming attitude to those with different views than in other countries, even to the extent of once providing a separate session for those who didn’t want to watch a teaching by SR. In other countries students wanting to return to Rigpa or even visit for a particular meeting have been turned away either abruptly or more subtly.

Ordinary students who keep asking the difficult questions

Though many students have left in disgust, leaving a greater percentage of people in Rigpa who apparently don’t care about ethical behaviour than those who do care, some students deeply concerned about all the issues shared in this blog do remain students so they can observe progress, continue to hold groups and care for others and to contribute to positive change. Each time one of them asks a question that those running groups would rather no one asked, or remind them that there has still been no acceptance of responsibility for the care of those harmed and so on, they break through the stupor of other students in the group who have been soothed (brainwashed?) into thinking everything is now fine. Everything is not fine, and I applaud those who remain in order to remind them of that. Don’t stop asking your questions. And please refer people to this blog, the categories on The Root of the Problem is particularly full of the sort of thing Rigpa students need to be aware of.

The man himself

I almost forgot the man at the core of this debacle. For me it’s important to give Sogyal Rinpoche or Lakar or whatever you want to call him credit for the great benefit he has brought to me personally and to many other people. That does not, of course, excuse his behaviour in any way, but I think it is something that we should not forget, for our sake. Despite his apparent limitations, he did introduce a lot of us to the noble dharma, and if we consider it was all a waste of time, we’re cutting ourself off from the benefit. Look for the benefit and you will find what’s worth holding onto.
You could compare denying the benefit gained to someone discarding everything they learned from a brilliant physics professor because they discovered he wasn’t a nice person. People can be brilliant in one area and really bad in another area, particularly in personal relationships. Credit where credit is due does not mean white-washing the bad, just recognising how things actually are.

Not in opposition

I regularly check my motivation and I find that the bottom line for me, as it is for any Mahayana Buddhist, is the desire to help bring beings to enlightenment. Those in Rigpa management are, I expect, aiming to do the same thing. They are just approaching it from a different perspective. In the end we are all just playing different roles in the same drama, a drama from which a great deal of good has already come, and I pray it may result in a renaissance for Tibetan Buddhism in the West, a renaissance that leaves the feudal structures and lama-centric dictates behind. That renaissance is unlikely to come from within Rigpa as I had initially hoped, but the ripples from this revelation will have an effect that goes beyond whatever Rigpa may do.
Keep up the good work everyone.
Post by Tahlia Newland.

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.
And if you would like to make sure that this blog keeps running, please consider sponsoring our editor for the many hours of work involved.

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.”


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.


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.

Tough Questions for the Investigators

A truly objective third-party investigation if done fully and with transparency by a respected agency should bring closure to the turbulent events in Rigpa and bring much healing to a great many shattered lives.
However, this will not happen, if it’s not begun soon and if it’s not undertaken as extensively and transparently as required.
Who does it, and how wide their terms of reference are will make a huge difference, but anyone doing the investigation, if they’re truly seeking something comprehensive, need to ask the tough questions.
The questions listed below are like doors off a corridor. How many doors will the investigators look into? How many will remain firmly closed? And if the questions are not being asked, then what does that say about the Rigpa of the future?

Questions the investigators need to consider:

  1. Why did misconduct continue even after a legal case was filed and resolved out of court, with a large financial payment, by Janice Doe in the USA, 1993?


  1. Who were, and are, the past and present members of Rigpa management that enabled physical, emotional and psychological mistreatment to continue over decades?


  1. Will the individuals revealed in question 2, who have been complicit in mistreatment or abuse, be removed from the organisation, or not permitted to remain in roles as instructors, managers or other influential positions?


  1. Why did Rigpa Management repeatedly deny mistreatment and abuse, indicating that they felt there was no problem with Sogyal Lakar’s behaviour, despite being approached by dozens of highly regarded senior instructors, directors and Buddhist practitioners over many decades?


  1. Why did Rigpa Management and directors hire management consultancy firms to provide training on how best to deny allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Sogyal Lakar?


  1. Why did Rigpa Management set-up training programmes for qualified therapists to deal with the excessive numbers of victims and the increasing recurrence of people having mental anxiety, depression or neurotic behaviour directly as a result of their relationship and contact with Sogyal Lakar?


  1. Did these therapists have a hidden agenda to try to encourage their clients to see that their discomfort around Sogyal Lakar’s behaviour lay with them and not with Sogyal Lakar?
  2. Why were physical assaults committed by Sogyal Lakar, which were witnessed by many people, neither investigated nor reported to the police by Rigpa managers?


  1. How will victims of abuse or mistreatment be vindicated by this investigation? How will they be able to receive compensation or redress?


  1. How will victims be given assurances that they will not receive further or additional harassment after the investigation reaches its conclusions?


  1. How will the investigations findings be permissible in legal cases filed in courts against individuals or Sogyal Lakar?

Perhaps these questions could be forwarded to the investigators, once we know who they are. Let’s face it, those culpable are not going to ask the investigators to ask these questions, are they? But aren’t they the questions that really need addressing here?

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.
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. Click the link and ask to join. You will need to answer some questions before being admitted to the group.
Those interested in ‘keeping Tibetan Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. Links to posts on this blog will be posted there as well as to other relevant information related to the wider issues involved.

What a Third Party Investigation Should Do

A What Now? group member spoke to An Olive Branch (an American Buddhism-based organisation that provides organizations with processes for healing and restoring harmony) and was informed that they have not been contacted by Rigpa to provide a neutral third party intervention. Nevertheless their experience in working with ethical violations in Buddhist communities makes them a valuable resource for whoever takes on the investigation.

What a Third Party Investigation Should Do

The following dot points come from one of the slides in the video below. It gives a comprehensive and insightful presentation on the essentials required by any organization taking on this task. Let’s hope that whoever does the investigation for Rigpa does achieve this:

  • Bring process to a difficult, messy situation
  • Allow everyone to be heard
  • Prevent personal attacks
  • Ensure harmful behaviour be stopped
  • Remediate anyone harmed Or restore good name of teacher
  • Return organisation to its mission

The video is set to play at the most relevant point for this discussion, but if you go back to the beginning, you will find out the presenters qualifications and a section on what a healthy sangha should have in place to prevent scandals before they start.

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.

The Abuse Continues. Upper Management Must Resign.

The section on Lotsawa House’s posting of an article on Samaya was edited 9th October.
Please note that this article does not represent the feelings of all members of the What Now? group.
Sogyal Rinpoche has resigned from teaching and from Rigpa, so the discussion has moved away from him and onto Rigpa as an organisation. The question became, “What are they going to do about it?” It’s been partially answered by their stated initiatives to institute a code of conduct, employ a third party to conduct an investigation, and form a new spiritual advisory body, which all sounds very nice, but the question as to how far these changes will actually go is still open, and it’s not looking hopeful that it will go very deep.

Senior students behaving abusively

What is clear is that some senior members of the organisation have, since these attestations of abuse came to light, further abused not only those who spoke out but also those who have supported those who spoke out. The 8 and many of their supporters have received both public and private abusive messages on Facebook, abusive emails and even abusive phone calls, and these are invariably from long term students.
Students close to SR have called them samaya-breakers (with the insinuated threat that they will go to hell,) have complained that they harmed the students spiritual path and the Vajrayana, called them arrogant, uncaring, ignorant, misguided and more. Though they have also received many communications of support, the abusive communications come always from those who are remaining in the organisation. Their concern has been entirely on protecting SL and their belief in him as an enlightened being.
Some of those who felt abused while within the organisation are feeling further abused due to this hurtful behaviour. Some who never felt abused while within the organisation are now feeling abused, not by SL, but by such students. One wonders what they actually learned, certainly this behaviour is not in accord with the Buddha’s teachings.

Why upper management must resign

It is clear from the attestations of abuse gathered over the years (see links in the Reference Material page) that those in upper management not only knew about the abuse (how could they not?) but also enabled it and covered it up. Clearly they didn’t see it as abuse, so with such a distorted view, how can they possibly be objective with the results of any investigation?
Evidence that they have not changed their attitude came in a disparaging message sent to one of the Eight from one of the members of the top level of management in Rigpa. It was not an official communication, just a personal message from one individual to another. However, this knee-jerk response to an email about an unrelated topic indicates that this person is in no position to make measured decisions when it comes to Rigpa’s future.
These people cannot be trusted to lead this organisation. If Rigpa is truly to regain public trust, the present upper management must resign. For so long as they are there, nothing that comes from Rigpa can be taken at face value.
An example that might show that Rigpa’s official position on Lama devotion/worship has not changed is the recent posting from Lotsawa House, A Brief Guide to Samaya Commitment by Lala Sonam Chödrup in which it is stated: “Avoid contradicting anything the guru says, even if it is seemingly unrelated to the Dharma. … Consider any critical comments or reprimands as a Dharma teaching and take them to heart. If the guru is in residence nearby, do not embark on anything independently without seeking his or her approval. Whatever the guru says, guard it carefully as if your very life were at stake, and carry it out unfailingly….”
Edited 9th October
Some of the What Now? group wondered why this was posted now, and suspected it was to guide students as to the ‘correct’ understanding?  However a spokesperson for Lotsawa House told me that he decided to post that translation without any contact with anyone from Rigpa’s management, senior or otherwise because there was a lot of discussion online about the meaning of samaya, and seemingly some confusion as to what you might call the traditional Tibetan viewpoint.
He went on to say that Lotsawa House tries, whenever possible, to provide authoritative sources on various topics as a reference for students of Tibetan Buddhism in general and that he chose that text (together with another text which deals with samaya from an absolute perspective) because it is relatively short and more interesting than other works which typically consist of long lists of one category of samaya breakage after another. How people interpret the texts Lotsawa House publishes is obviously beyond our control. But if anyone has been using them to condemn or even abuse others that is not only wrong, it is contrary to what Lotsawa House’s main advisor, Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, sees as the central purpose of the Dharma: i.e. a way to look at oneself, not a way to view the supposed faults of others.
I am extremely pleased to have this clarification and are very grateful to Lotsawa House for their willingness to contact us.

Cult-like behaviour

Added to this outright abuse, unsuitability of their leaders to lead, and indications that Rigpa is sticking to the very beliefs that allowed the abuse to occur is observable cultic behaviour. If Rigpa wishes to be seen as a genuine dharma organisation not a cult, management needs to address the following issues.

  1. What we are seeing is only the appearance of openness and communication, because members of the What Now? facebook group have reported that underpinning the apparent openness in many (not all) centres and individuals is defensiveness, passive aggression and attachment to rigid beliefs which means that even where there is listening, there is little hearing, and even where there is hearing, there is not the will to act on what is heard. And there is little actual communication in that though students say how they feel they get no or little response back, just vague soothing words.
  2. People in Rigpa centres are talking, yes, but discussion is in a highly controlled fashion, kept strictly to set questions and allowable responses – eg sharing only feelings and personal stories not broader concerns – and only within the context of set workshops with set parameters. Many students frustrated with this limited discussion and faced with antagonism (sometimes veiled sometimes overt) from other students have left.
  3. Online, official and unofficial Rigpa groups have been shut down or tightly controlled, immediately ejecting anyone who is seen to be questioning beliefs or saying anything ‘negative’ about the organisation or Sogyal. This shows dogmatism and intolerance towards different thinking.Efforts by some to bridge the gap between reformists and fundamentalists have met with silence from those who support the status quo or thinly veiled aggression.
    Some people are banned from certain groups simply because they are known to be part of the What Now? group. They are not even given a chance to say something positive. It’s the ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ mentality that allows no room for those with a moderate approach and removes all dissenters.This behaviour indicates that there is no real interest in healing the rift between the reformist and fundamentalist factions. Reformists are being made to feel unwanted. Once they all leave, there will be no impetus to change from within.
  4. Limiting information to only that that supports the existing culture. The only information being shared within the organisation and on social media from associated Lamas reinforces the culture that allowed SR’s behaviour to go unchecked for decades. We’ve seen statements on samaya from ‘respected’ Lamas associated with Rigpa that lack any compassion for the victims and, given the present circumstances, look a lot like victim blaming, scare tactics to keep people in line, and support existing power structures. Since Rigpa has not responded by saying that those statements do not necessarily reflect the approach of the organisation, or released other teachings that provide a broader perspective, then these are seen as the official position.Links to His Holiness’s replies to specific questions on this exact situation from the Western Dharma Teachers conference in 1993 have not been shared with the whole sangha. Why not? What do they have to fear from a Lama who says you can speak up without fear of going to vajra hell so long as you keep respect for the person and the good you received?
  5. Denigrating those who are seen as negative and making them feel guilty. The victim blaming continues and is supported by the messages to the sangha from the Lamas mentioned above. One, in speaking about demons and negative forces, virtually demonised those who had spoken up. This has gone as far as dismissing criticism from Lamas previously treated as supporters such as HHDL.
  6. Personal attacks on those who have spoken up or who have supported those who have spoken up have come from all levels of individuals from within the organisation.
  7. Evidence of brainwashing in those who use beliefs as a reason to deny that the attested behaviour constitutes abuse, despite the fact that any normal Westerner has no difficulty assigning that term to the behaviours outlined in the letter.

These points are only those that are easily observable by any student. What is happening at the core of the organisation is, as before, not something the ordinary student knows about. But certainly leaving is not so easy when you are financially dependent on the organisation and important to it.

Still a complete lack of concern for those who feel harmed.

There has been no apology and no indication of concern for those who feel harmed, just communications that have clearly been checked by a lawyer in order to protect the organisation and the people involved.
They failed in their duty of care to the people who felt abused and they are still failing now. Remember that nothing official has been said to the Eight from management, no enquiries as to their present well-being. Nothing. The organisation is involved in discussions with members on cultural change, but they are not including those most able to see the problem.
The way Rigpa has acted since they received the letter from the Eight goes a long way to confirming that everything in that letter is real.

Is this a healthy environment for walking the spiritual path?

Rigpa students must decide two things: whether they can in all conscience still receive teachings from SL (Rigpa uses video recordings in their courses) and whether they can stay in a community where senior students use abusive language to threaten and demean those who question, and where upper management are the very people who enabled and covered up the abuse for decades. Such behaviour shows a personal lack of commitment to ethics at the core of the organisation.

Is there still a chance they could turn this around?

Only if those at the centre of the organisation for the last few decades resign and are replaced with people who are willing to apologise.

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.


Khenchen Namdrol's Comments Raise Questions on Rigpa Management's Committment to Change

Khenchen Namdrol speaks at Lerab Ling and takes a dogmatic view that supports existing power structures.

A video of Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche speaking at the end of his recent teachings in Lerab Ling was uploaded to You Tube on the 23rd of September on an account with no other teachings on it and no name or information about the owner of the account.
In the video he talks about the students who wrote the letter that broke the silence on abuse in Rigpa and gives a narrow view of the instructions on not criticising the teacher – one that is not in accord with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice or the perspective of Mingyur Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard, Erik Pema Kusang, Venerable Thubten Choden, Dr Alexander Birzin, Rob Preece, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and Jack Kornfield to name a few. (Links to their articles can be found on the Reference Material page)
He does not address the abuse at all, just condemns the letter writers. It’s victim blaming couched in religious terms, the sort of thing one would expect in any fundamentalist religion where those in power have their power base threatened. Make them the bad guys, not the ‘perfect’ guy at the helm.
This indicates to me how ingrained the problem in Tibetan Buddhism is. For all their supposed wisdom, there appears to be, in some of the lamas, a selective blindness or inability to adapt. This viewpoint is what you get if you look for answers/advice in teachings that don’t deal with this situation directly, so he takes the nearest applicable teaching, the ‘you must not criticise your teacher and if you do you’ll go to hell’ line, but it’s the very instruction that allows abusive behaviour in Tibetan Buddhist communities to flourish. And it’s a view that keeps the lamas firmly in their place at the top of their fuedal power structure.

Lack of compassion

What is really striking here is the lack of compassion by this Khenpo and his audience, who cheer enthusiastically at the end. What are they practicing here? Vajrayana Buddhism is based on Great Compassion and Wisdom, yet neither of those are evident in these comments.

Buddhism is not theistic

KN says that demonic forces are at play, even insinuating that they have taken over the students who spoke out about SR’s behaviour, and then he threatens them with hell. Worse, he speaks of hell and demonic forces as if they are intrinsically real and solid. This makes it easy for some to see it as laughable superstition, but students without an understanding of emptiness may take this view at face value, but such a view is not Buddhism.
The wisdom aspect, emptiness, teaches that nothing is real and solid. The same way as in the visualistion practice, the deities that are visualised are not ‘gods’, they are not intrinsically real. The way he speaks here is as if he believes these demonic forces truly exists and have to be fought and overcome. But are these demonic forces not our own obscurations and obstacles, and are they not supposed to be brought onto the path and seen as not truly existing?
And if they exist, and if the people who signed the letter are in the wrong, as per his point of view, and if they have been overtaken by demonic forces, do they not deserve compassion? True compassion! Not this accusatory way of speaking and solidifying the negativity that has already been directed at them. This is literal demonising!

A damaging statement that solidifies the schism & alienates students

Conveniently neglecting to consider that the cause is the abusive behaviour, not those who spoke up about it, he mentions the schism in the sangha, but he has unwittingly made the situation worse by solidifying some of the ideas that caused the schism in the first place. Hearing this, and particularly if they take it as Rigpa management’s view, may turn some students away, not just from Rigpa but from Tibetan Buddhism entirely.
He (and other Lamas with this view) may be able to teach dharma but it appears that he has little understanding of general Western sensibilities and clearly has no understanding of the dynamics of abuse and of how harmful victim blaming is, not just to those who have been harmed but also to healing the whole situation from all angles.
All his opinion does is reaffirm the power structures in the religion to the detriment of students with genuine grievences.  This is the sort of thing we have to call the Tibetan Lamas out on, but since the kind of reform required will need the lamas to give up a large portion of their power, that level of change will not happen easily – and unfortunately, this statment makes it clear that it will not happen at all in some lama’s communities.
Which brings us to the topic of change.

Does this narrow view reflect Rigpa management’s stance?

This video came from a restricted retreat, so who put this opinion on You Tube where already over 1000 people have viewed it? Since as a restricted teaching only a few people at the core of the organisation would have access to this video, are we to presume that it is an official or unofficial statement? If so, how can we have any trust that Rigpa will make the wide sweeping changes needed to make it and Tibetan Buddhism a relevant vehicle for Buddhism the West? Or is this an indication that Rigpa and Tibetan Buddhism will become merely another religion full of superstision and dogma. If so, what a shame. What a wasted opportunity.
The statement was made on a Rigpa stage during a Rigpa event, but Rigpa management didn’t offer a statement clarifying that it was KN’s opinion that, as an opinion, does not necessarily reflect the view of management. That neglect implies that this is a Rigpa position, and since this has been their position in the past, it would not be a surprise to learn this, only a grave disappointment.
The link was posted on an official Rigpa Facebook group (The All Encompassing Path) but when asked if it was an official Rigpa position, the link was removed. This is a very good sign, but a statement in response to the video being posted is needed to reassure people who are seeking real change, not window dressing.

Can Rigpa management step up and show good faith?

Clearly someone in the upper management takes this stance, or they wouldn’t have ‘leaked’ the video, and such a stance calls into question just how committed they are to the promises they made in their press release on the Lerab Ling Website in which they say: 

“The governing boards and management teams of Rigpa, having sought professional and spiritual advice, will assure that the following steps are taken:

  1. Set up an independent investigation by a neutral third party into the various allegations that have been made.
  2. Launch an international consultation process to establish both a code of conduct and a grievance process for Rigpa.
  3. Establish a new spiritual advisory group to guide the Rigpa organization.”
In order for these changes to be more than an elaborate smoke screen, Rigpa needs to change at the level of how they interpret such instructions as ‘do not criticise your teacher.’ If they are in accord with KN’s statement, then any findings by the investigation are unlikely to bring any real resolution and the code of conduct will not be grounded in real change. And if the new spiritual advisory body is full of lamas with KN’s view, then anyone committed to retaining their wisdom of discernment or cutting Tibetan superstition from the religion might as well leave Rigpa now.


Does Rigpa want to be associated with religious extremism?

The kind of view where those who speak up are threatened with hell is religious extremism, tantamount to taking the bible as literal truth; is this what Rigpa wants to be known for? If not, then Rigpa management needs to step up and deny any relationship with his statement in order to show good faith and establish themselves as genuinely interested in change.
If you want to see the clip, it’s HERE. Watch from 17:10 for the most relevant part.
The instruction to never criticise the teacher in any circumstances in fear of going to hell as stated by Khenchen Namdrol is simply not a healthy angle to take in 2017 in the West when several Tibetan lamas have proved they can’t be trusted. If our teachers were trustworthy this wouldn’t be an issue.
However, if we take the viewpoint of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mingyur Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard, Erik Pema Kusang, Venerable Thubten Choden, Dr Alexander Birzin, Rob Preece, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and Jack Kornfield to name a few,  students would not feel that they must put up with abusive behaviour from lamas in the future.
Rigpa has a choice, and every student that makes up the community has to make this choice, but Rigpa management can lead the way and choose the view that will further the place of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, not diminish it.
So Rigpa management, if any of you read this, will you assure us that you are committed to deep change by distancing yourself from Khenchen Namdrol’s comments? 
Please remember in your comments that the aim of this blog is to bring about change, not destroy Rigpa or Tibetan Buddhism, and that we honor His Holiness the Dalia Lama as one of our guides.

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:

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.